October 26, 2015
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CONTENTS October 26, 2015
New York City may not have the real estate for a manufacturing resurgence By Bob Hennelly Disclosure bill responding to Queens library scandal stalls in City Council By Jeff Stein from New York Nonprofit
Could 2016 be the year for paid family leave? By Ashley Hupfl
Race for Erie county executive gets vicious By Justin Sondel
Can New York turn around its dismal voter turnout? By Jon Lentz
FROM THE EDITOR’S DESK
Michael Gareth Johnson Executive Editor
Covering politics, it is easy to become apathetic about certain issues, when it seems like nothing about those issues ever changes. Low voter turnout is one such issue. If you bring this topic up to any veteran political journalist, especially in New York, the responses will vary from a sarcastic “no shit” to the more polite “everyone knows that.” That was my initial reaction when this topic was discussed among our editorial staff as well. But I quickly came to realize that I had let myself fall into a bubble of apathy about an issue of vital importance. When you consider how much money is invested in government and politics in our state and in New York City, you have to wonder why more people cit yandstateny.com
don’t vote. And the natural conclusion is that the financial investment isn’t designed to increase participation; it’s generally aimed at depressing it. As a skeptic it is easy to blame elected officials, or lobbyists, or both, for this ongoing trend – arguing that they are just trying to protect incumbency. But this has been going on for so long that it has become a little disingenuous to blame the current players who have figured out a way to excel in a system that long predates them. So if we all generally agree that low voter turnout is a problem, and universally accept that more participation in a democracy tends to make for a better democracy, then tackling this topic seems like a no-brainer. And that was why our Senior Correspondent Jon Lentz set out to detail the reasons New Yorkers don’t vote. Some are obvious. Some are not. But consistently, we see that one of the biggest reasons for the low turnout is because the system clearly isn’t designed to be voter-friendly. It’s a good read, even for the apathetic politicos out there. In our opinion section in the back of the book, we also feature an intriguing look at the financial services sector here in New York from the perspective of a government official across the pond. U.K. Labour Party member Bryn Phillips makes the case that investing in the formation of regional banks, instead of the massive institutions blamed for the financial collapse in 2008, is the best path forward for sustainable growth. Definitely a perspective worth considering, as the wounds of the recession are still fresh for many New Yorkers.
SPOTLIGHT: GREEN NEW YORK
Unions, advocates promote city trash zone plan … GE urged to keep cleaning the Hudson River … city eyes incentives for sustainability … state energy overhaul is ‘REV’ing up … Q&As with Nilda Mesa, Richard Kauffman, Kevin Parker, Tom O’Mara, Judith Enck, Gil Quiniones
BACK & FORTH
Nick Powell on de Blasio’s Hillary nonendorsement … Henry Garrido on the workers left out of the Fight for $15 … Bryn Phillips on the need for regional banks … Avik Kabessa on the proposed Uber regulation rules … Alexis Grenell and Michael Benjamin on the Democratic presidential debate
A Q&A with former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard
October 26, 2015
Cover: by Guillaume Federighi
city & state — October 26, 2015
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city & state — October 26, 2015
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State Senate Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins
State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli
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LIVING MONUMENTS NEW YORK CITY HAS A LONG TRADITION OF HONORING POLITICIANS PRE-HUMOUSLY By JEFF COLTIN
city & state — October 26, 2015
Everyone knows LaGuardia Airport, the George Washington Bridge and the Major Deegan, but New York City also has a long history of naming things after living politicians. Very long, as a matter of fact: When the British army captured New Amsterdam in 1664, they renamed the area New York to honor the Duke of York. Here are some more recent cases.
DAVID N. DINKINS MANHATTAN MUNICIPAL BUILDING
ED KOCH QUEENSBORO BRIDGE
HUGH L. CAREY TUNNEL
When New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio renamed the Manhattan Municipal Building for the city’s first black mayor – and his former employer – this month, the 88-year-old Dinkins was there to see it. Completed in 1914, the grand, classical building at 1 Centre St. was the first building in the city to incorporate a subway station at its base.
When a bridge already has two names (Queensboro and the 59th Street Bridge), why not give it a third? Or so Mayor Michael Bloomberg must have thought when he officially named it the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge in 2011. Despite Queens-centric pushback led by then-City Councilman Peter Vallone, Koch was on hand for the dedication ceremony to say he was “very grateful.”
State legislators approved an official name change for the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel the same week the Bloomberg administration announced plans to honor Koch with his bridge. While the Brooklyn-born former Gov. Hugh Carey was alive to hear of the honor, he died before the official renaming ceremony in 2012 (though his family was there to celebrate).
BERNARD B. KERIK COMPLEX
FRANK PADAVAN CAMPUS AT GLEN OAKS
GUY V. MOLINARI AND JOHN J. MARCHI STATEN ISLAND FERRIES
BONUS: USS VAN BUREN
Not all ceremonial renamings are forever. From 2001 to 2006, the Manhattan Detention Complex, commonly called the Tombs, was named after Bernard Kerik, who had served as both the city’s correction and police commissioner. The name reverted to the original, more descriptive one when Kerik pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors – an irony that was not lost on the man who titled his memoir “From Jailer to Jailed.”
Republican state Sen. Frank Padavan was in the middle of his 2008 re-election campaign when his name was added to a public school campus in his northeast Queens district. His Democratic opponent, James F. Gennaro, called it “completely outrageous” and believed it to be a ploy by Mayor Michael Bloomberg to maintain the Republican majority in the Senate. One of the largest public school campuses in the country, it still bears the Padavan name.
Long-serving Staten Island politicians Guy Molinari and John Marchi were honored months apart in 2005 with their names in paint on the big orange boats. There does not seem to be much method behind the ferry-naming process, as the Molinari and Marchi joined a fleet alongside vessels named for President John F. Kennedy, local high school football coach Andrew J. Barberi, and turn-of-the-century photographer Alice Austen.
Not to be confused with the World War II-era frigate of the same name, the 73-foot schooner USS Van Buren was commissioned in 1839 and named to honor Kinderhook, New York’s favorite son, President Martin Van Buren. It participated in the MexicanAmerican War, but was deemed unseaworthy after less than eight years and sold by 1847, 15 years before Van Buren’s own death.
TRICK OR TREAT!
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and first lady Chirlane McCray let loose their inner buccaneers in last year’s Park Slope Halloween Parade ...
… and audition for the mayor’s upcoming role as Emperor Warren Wilhelm.
WILLIAM ALATRISTE FOR THE CITY COUNCIL; FACEBOOK
TWITTER; CITY COUNCILMAN PAUL VALLONE’S OFFICE
City Comptroller Scott Stringer, Public Advocate Letitia James and Assemblyman Keith Wright went medieval at Fort Tryon earlier this month.
And an utterly unrecognizable City Councilman Paul Vallone scares the daylights out of children last year at the Alley Pond Environmental Center Haunted Hike.
And let’s not forget the supreme champion of Halloween, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s girlfriend Sandra Lee. He may not have been in costume (the bow tie is perennial), but City Councilman Andy King got up close and personal with the Caped Crusader. cit yandstateny.com
city & state — October 26, 2015
ED REED; ROB BENNETT/MAYORAL PHOTOGRAPHY OFFICE
Part of being a politician is knowing how to put your best face forward. But isn’t it nice every once in a while to put some OTHER face forward? So in the spirit of the spooky season, here are some of New York’s most prominent figures donning their most memorable disguises.
SPACE UNAVAILABLE U.S. ART AND MANUFACTURING ARE ON THE REBOUND, BUT NEW YORK CITY MAY NOT HAVE THE ROOM
city & state — October 26, 2015
For decades, the draw of cheap labor and lower environmental standards fueled a massive exodus of manufacturing from the United States. Nowhere was that felt more sharply than in New York City, where in 1910 manufacturing accounted for 40 percent of all jobs. According to “Engines of Opportunity,” a report put out last November by City Council Speaker Melissa MarkViverito, those kinds of jobs account for just 10 percent of the city’s privatesector workforce. Experts say expanding the city’s manufacturing and industrial base is critical to closing New York City’s widening income gap and ameliorating its affordability crisis because jobs in these sectors pay far more than jobs in the service sector. The City Council analysis noted that jobs in manufacturing and industrial
production pay on average $51,000 a year, “more than twice the average pay” in the retail, hospitality and restaurant sectors, where most of the post-recession job growth has been concentrated. Thanks to the confluence of cheaper energy prices and the growing demand for higher wages and environmental standards in China and emerging markets, there are signs of a potential revival of American manufacturing. But elected officials are concerned that the city won’t get to participate in this rebound because the kinds of spaces it would need to take root are being gobbled up by a residential real estate market that is serving a wealthy global clientele willing to pay any price to have a tony New York City address. Last month, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and City
Councilwoman Margaret Chin highlighted this trend in the SoHo and NoHo neighborhoods when they wrote to Carl Weisbrod, chairman of the city’s Planning Commission, about the loss of once-protected industrial properties and loft spaces where artists had been legally permitted to live and work. “A continuing flood of special permits and variances” have been issued by the city, which raise “serious questions about planning strategy for the neighborhood,” Chin and Brewer wrote. “The big push is for luxury condo development and big-box retail,” Brewer said in a phone interview. “We want to preserve these great spaces we have for artists and expand the definition to include light manufacturing like 3-D printing because those jobs pay more, and in
the process we preserve the unique character of SoHo and NoHo.” As the city’s residential and retail real estate markets skyrocket, even successful manufacturers looking to expand are hard-pressed to find a place to go in the five boroughs, said Oliver Lednicer of the Manufacturers Association of New York City. “The building owners are warehousing these buildings on speculation that something else more lucrative might come along,” said Lednicer. “If you’re a manufacturer and you have to think about moving heavy equipment and making the capital investment to upgrade a new site, it’s hard to get a landlord to give you anything but a short-term lease, so unfortunately they leave the city and New York state.” The boom in residential real estate has even had an impact on manufacturers fortunate enough to own their own spaces, according to Kinda Younes, the executive director of the Industrial & Technology Assistance Corporation, a nonprofit that works with the city’s manufacturing sector. “Some manufacturers say they get to a point where their production facility that they own is worth more for residential use and so that contributes to this scarcity of industrial space,” Younes said. “The reality is the space is always going to go to the highest bidder,” said Evette J. Stark, a sales agent with Weichert Properties’ Rockefeller Center office. “The demand is for triple-A tenants, those corporate, national and regional players who are more creditworthy so landlords don’t have to worry about collecting.” Stark says landlords are feeling the impact of both higher property taxes and water and sewer charges that have shot up exponentially over the last 20 years. “If you have a large building with 30 apartments above four stores you’ll see those retail spaces will have cit yandstateny.com
By BOB HENNELLY
By Stuart Appelbaum, President, Retail, Wholesale and Department By Stuart Appelbaum, President, Store Union, RWDSU, UFCW and Department Store Union, Retail, Wholesale RWDSU, UFCW ew York City’s new Car Wash Accountability ew City’s to new Car Wash Accountability Act,York designed regulate an industry that Act, designed to regulate industry thatand has long operated withoutan any oversight operatedhistory withoutofany oversight and which has along disgraceful worker which has a disgraceful history of worker exploitation, is under attack. exploitation, is underdestroyers attack. are members of the The would-be The Association would-be destroyers of the Car Wash who wantare to members maintain the they the have Car Wash who wantlawyers to maintain status quo,Association and the high-priced lawyers they have hired gut and the new law with a bogus suit that will statustoquo, the high-priced hired to gut the new ‘carwasheros’ law with a bogus suit that keep the immigrant trapped in will the immigrant poverty and working keep in unsafe conditions.‘carwasheros’ trapped in poverty and working inassociation unsafe conditions. Members of the are being hypocritical: This is an Members the association are being hypocritical: This is an to industry with an of appalling track record and they have done nothing industry with In anfact, appalling track record and they have done to of change that. the association was formed for the solenothing purpose ability operateof in change fact, the formedtheir for the soletopurpose trying tothat. stop In passage ofassociation the law andwas to protect the shadows. trying to stop passage of the law and to protect their ability to operate in In recent years, car wash owners have agreed to settlements worth the shadows. millions dollars. These restitution forsettlements money taken from In of recent years, car settlements wash ownersare have agreed to worth – workers are struggling to by in a difficult and taken from workers of millions dollars. who These settlements areget restitution for money who areisstruggling to that get by in a difficult and to change. demanding industry. This an industry desperately needs workers – workers demanding industry. This an industry thatthe desperately needs to change. This new law for theisfirst time gives city regulatory power over andlaw requires to begives licensed, to obey environmental This new for thethem first time the city regulatory power over the industry andobtain requires themtotoprotect be licensed, to and obeyconsumers. environmental guidelines, a bond workers the industryand guidelines, and obtain bondmuch to protect workers and consumers. The owners haveamade of the bond issue, but they have The owners have made much the bond issue, but theypost have been disingenuous about it. The lawof states that owners must a been disingenuous about it. The law that owners must post $150,000 surety bond to ensure thatstates money is available to pay anya $150,000 surety to ensure money available pay any claims workers or bond consumers maythat have. If theisowner has to a proven the workplace to ensure wage will not claims or consumers may have. If the that owner hastheft a proven systemworkers of monitoring occur, would havethe to workplace post just ato $30,000 bond. Onetheft way will not ensure that wage systemthey of monitoring recognized by the have law totoachieve that is throughbond. the presence occur, they would post just a $30,000 One way of union representation for law workers. But itthat is certainly notthe thepresence only way. of Owners recognized by the to achieve is through union who have consented to a government-ordered monitoring system also representation for workers. But it is certainly not the only way. Owners qualify. The point is that a union is present or when there is also other who have consented to awhen government-ordered monitoring system issues can beorquickly remedied. workplace qualify. Themonitoring, point is that whenofa wage uniontheft is present when there is other issues wage theft canthe bemoney quicklytoremedied. The owners also say thatofthey don’t have pay for the workplace monitoring, owners sayare that don’tup have theamounts; money tothey pay are for the bond, The but the fact also is they notthey putting those bond, the fact is theyat are not putting up those amounts; theyatare simplybut buying insurance a small percentage of that cost. And the simply buying at a small of that And at theof same time thatinsurance they complain aboutpercentage the cost, they arecost. spending tens – or moreabout – on lawyers kill this legislation. same time of that they complain the cost,tothey are historic spending tens of thousands dollars It is plain to see the –bond issue istoakill redthis herring. The owners – that or more on lawyers historic legislation. thousands of dollars don’t want to open their books and don’t theirherring. workersThe to join a It is plain to see that the bond issuewant is a red owners union because a union monitoring andtheir a grievance don’t want to open theirprovides books and don’t want workers procedure to join a that protects workers. Ten shops voted to join the unionempowers because aand union provides monitoring and ahave grievance procedure RWDSU and nine have won union contracts. that empowers and protects workers. Ten shops have voted to join the The Citynine Council, led by Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, RWDSU and have won union contracts. in led enacting the legislation, which Mayor de Blasio stood The up for workers City Council, by Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, courageously signed in it into law. the legislation, which Mayor de Blasio enacting stood up for workers And yousigned can beitsure courageously intothat law.we at the Car Wash Campaign will fight back against this and Wash do And you can be sure that we at suit the Car everything will possible to reform thisthis industry anddo Campaign fight back against suit and improve thepossible lives of to thousands of workers. everything reform this industry and improve the lives of thousands of workers.
For more information, visit For more information, visit www.rwdsu.org
The de Blasio administration is investing $100 million in the Brooklyn Army Terminal. cit yandstateny.com
Our Our Perspective Perspective A A Disgraceful Disgraceful Attack Attack on on Workers Workers
city & state — October 26, 2015
City) with new spaces in places like Sunset Park and the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and investing in workforce training that matches firms with homegrown talent.” In November 2014, de Blasio announced the city was investing $140 million into the renovation of Building 77 in the city-owned Brooklyn Navy Yard to accommodate up to 100 prospective manufacturing tenants who were projected to create 3,000 new jobs on site. The former 1 millionsquare-foot, 16-story ammunition depot was slated for a total upgrade with new elevators, windows and state-of-the-art building mechanical systems. “This is a pivotal facility, and what will be created here will be beautiful, environmentally friendly, 21st-century workspaces, ideal for next-generation enterprises,” de Blasio told reporters at a press conference. The sprawling 300-acre Navy Yard itself encompasses 4.5 million square feet with 40 buildings. During the Bloomberg administration the city committed $200 million to the site, and between 2001 and 2013, employment there spiked from 3,600 to 6,400. In July 2014 the de Blasio administration also announced a $100 million investment in upgrading Sunset Park’s Brooklyn Army Terminal. The sprawling 4.4 million-squarefoot waterfront complex was sold to the city by the federal government in 1981. In making that announcement, de Blasio linked the importance of nurturing a vibrant manufacturing sector with the creation of wellpaying jobs in neighborhoods “where working-class residents pay rents they can afford, then walk to stable
A KATZ / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
leases where they are paying a portion of the water and sewer charges as well as the property tax,” she said. Stark concedes that the rental landscape is tilted to the banks, drug stores and national retail chains because not only can the landowner get more rent but “the inherent value of a building goes up when you have a corporate tenancy, an entity rated by a Dun & Bradstreet.” Stark says this bias to corporate tenants has an impact on community cohesion that exists when there is a greater variety of locally based businesses, artisans and tradespeople present. “These big companies are not going to be sponsoring the neighborhood Little League,” she said. “We are seeing tremendous economic pressure on the remaining industrial and manufacturing properties, and if we continue to lose these places we will see the continued erosion of local good-paying jobs that people can walk to,” said Eddie Bautista, executive director of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance. “But it is not just about jobs. Well-run industrial and manufacturing zones that don’t degrade the environment can actually hold back gentrification, that kind of luxury development that drives out working-class people of color.” This crunch on industrial space is on Mayor Bill de Balsio’s radar, according to a spokesperson for the administration. “We are laser-focused on getting modern manufacturers the space and the workforce they need,” said spokesman Wiley Norvell. “This is an industry that’s reinvented itself through technology, and we’re supporting its growth in (New York
bought an interest in Industry City, and according to its website, plans to transform the “ground floor and lower levels into a pedestrian friendly series of shops, showrooms, event spaces and courtyards, loosely organized around themes such as food and food production, children and family, and home goods, while providing ample loading docks and service ground for upper floor innovation economy and manufacturing tenants.” Jamestown’s partners in the project are Angelo, Gordon & Co., Belvedere Capital, Cammeby’s International and FBE Limited. By January 2014, The New York Times was reporting that despite that widely acclaimed “Come Together” art show, “dozens of artists who had studios in Industry City were packing up their oil paints and brushes and leaving. Rents were rising, and many could not afford to stay.” In reality, manufacturers and artists caught up in this diaspora have a lot in common. Consider the challenge faced by Gelsey Kirkland and Michael Chernov, co-directors of the Gelsey Kirkland Academy of Classical Ballet, who in 2010 set up their dance space at 355 Broadway in Tribeca only to
find out last year they had to find a new location so the site could be residentially developed. “We had to find a space big enough for 30 people to dance without columns, with ceilings high enough to accommodate lifts and leaps,” said Larry Henry, executive director of the ballet academy. Months later the school, which also includes a professional performing company, was re-established at the former site of St. Ann’s Warehouse, a performing arts venue in Dumbo, Brooklyn.
But even at the new location, which includes a theater and four freshly renovated state-of-the-art dance studios, the ballet school and performing company only have a fiveyear lease. “We could actually get kicked out in two years,” said Henry. “(New York City) can’t keep losing all the things we are the capital of. We say we are the capital of dance and fashion but we are turning the spaces where we do these things into residences. We’re turning into the world capital of apartments.”
jobs generated by a blossoming small manufacturing sector.” Also on Sunset Park’s waterfront sits Industry City, a 30-acre, 16-building complex formerly known as the Bush Terminal. In 1895 it was the visionary developer Irving Bush’s concept of creating a manufacturing campus serviced by both rail and marine transport that put Brooklyn on the map as a major international seaport. Billed as a “great industrial city within a city,” it at one time employed 25,000 people and was home to a wide variety of manufacturers, including Topps Baseball Cards. Over the years, as they were priced out of Manhattan, artists found sanctuary and affordability in Industry City, which was hit hard by Superstorm Sandy. In October 2013 the vitality and diversity of this community was put on display in an art show entitled “Come Together: Surviving Sandy.” The online catalogue of that show vividly depicts the essential connection between the availability of affordable, expansive spaces and the proliferation of art. But back in August 2013, Jamestown Properties, the developer of Manhattan’s Chelsea Market,
Erez Milatin of the Gelsey Kirkland ballet academy rehearses in the group’s new space.
I’m Brett, U.S. Navy veteran and a New Yorker. In the last two years, we’ve helped over two-thirds of our homeless veterans ﬁnd a place to call home. Now we need New Yorkers to help us cross the ﬁnish line.
city & state — October 26, 2015
Brett Morash Services for the UnderServed
Help house a veteran
join nyc’s mission home Go to www.nyc.gov/missionhome or call 311 if you're an owner or broker to ﬁnd out about incentives for renting to veterans. cit yandstateny.com
DISCLOSURE BILL DOA
LEGISLATION RESPONDING TO QUEENS LIBRARY SCANDAL STALLS
Nearly a month after an initial hearing in the New York City Council, legislation that would increase the financial disclosure requirements for the city’s nonprofit organizations has stalled, sources tell City & State. “The bill, as currently written, doesn’t get at the problem that it was meant to solve: the corruption at the Queens Public Library,” Stephanie Buhle, a spokesman for City Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal, said in an interview last week. “It’s clear that there isn’t the sort of oversight that needs to be in place,” Buhle continued. “The question is figuring out a way to implement that kind of oversight while taking into consideration the concerns raised by human services nonprofits, and the current bill doesn’t do that.” Yet City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley, the sponsor, maintained that there is political support for the legislation, and that specifics could be hammered out through the existing framework of the bill. The bill would require all “persons in leadership positions” – including board members and senior staff members – at nonprofit organizations that receive funding from the city to submit financial disclosure forms, as well as require the disclosure of “any transaction, direct or indirect, between such person and any institution” to the city. The bill comes in the wake of a recent scandal involving senior management of the Queens Public Library, an organization that relies heavily on city funding. Thomas Galante, the library’s former chief executive officer, along with other members of senior leadership, spent over $300,000 in prohibited expenses, according to an investigative report released by City Comptroller Scott Stringer in July. Galante also received payment as a “part-time consultant” for another employer, the Elmont Union Free cit yandstateny.com
Former CEO Thomas Galante was accused of spending $300,000 of Queens library funds. School District, at the same time that he was receiving a full-time salary at the library. None of the spending or additional income was disclosed. Crowley says that increasing the disclosure requirements for board members and senior leadership of nonprofit organizations can help prevent misuse of city funds. “We absolutely have a problem with the amount of disclosure we’re getting from charitable organizations,” Crowley said. “The services they provide are often sorely needed and done in good faith, but we have to make sure that our city’s funds are not being stolen. All that we are asking for is a greater level of transparency.” The bill garnered support from some advocacy and good-government groups, including Common Cause New York and Citizens Union of the City of New York. “We do not see compliance with this request as burdensome, particularly in light of unfortunate past problems of self-dealing and fraudulent conduct involving charities in New York City,” Prudence Katze, research and policy manager at Common Cause New
York, said at the City Council hearing held in late September. But despite the bill’s goal of creating more transparency at cityfunded nonprofits and preventing future scandals, many in the human services and arts nonprofit sectors are arguing that the amendment is both impractical and redundant. Testifying at the hearing, Michelle Jackson, associate director and general counsel of the Human Services Council, called the amendment “an unfunded, unworkable mandate that would compound the already high administrative and financial burdens on nonprofit organizations.” Jackson cited the many reporting requirements that already exist for New York’s nonprofit organizations, including audits on every city contract, reporting to the IRS and state attorney general’s Charities Bureau, and VENDEX questionnaires, a filing requirement for vendors with more than $100,000 in business with the city. She also argued that requiring government approval of every related-party transaction would “grind the work of nonprofits to a halt.” “There is no funding to support the
expansion of these requirements,” Jackson added. Laura Abel, senior policy counsel of the Lawyers Alliance for New York, testified that the vast majority of the disclosures that the city desires are already included in federal tax disclosures, as well as reporting required by the state. Abel also argued that in addition to presenting an undue burden to the city’s nonprofits, no infrastructure exists within city government to carry out the additional oversight. “More than 2,100 nonprofits receive city funding,” Abel said. “Without an enormous infusion of resources, city personnel will not have the time to assess and approve appropriate transactions with each one in a timely manner.” The legislation also faces opposition within city government. The de Blasio administration questioned whether the bill would realize increased oversight. “We do not believe this bill is the right approach to our shared goal of ensuring transparency for nonprofits and look forward to working with the council on determining the best way to achieve this goal,” a spokesman for the administration said. Crowley told City & State that one question that can be resolved is where to place the increased oversight. “Should it be an extension of the Department of Investigations? Ultimately, tens of millions of dollars are being given out, and we do not have the same oversight over that money that we do over various city agencies,” she said. “That needs to change. We need to know that all of our city spending is ethical.” She expressed confidence that concerns could be addressed by tweaks made through the natural legislative process. “Nothing is perfect in the beginning,” she said, “and that’s why we have the democratic process.”
city & state — October 26, 2015
By JEFF STEIN from NEW YORK NONPROFIT
PAID FAMILY LEAVE WITH NEWFOUND REPUBLICAN SUPPORT, COULD 2016 BE THE YEAR?
city & state — October 26, 2015
a growing national conversation, state Senate Republicans are showing renewed support for a paid family leave program in New York, which could be the push the issue needs to pass during the 2016 legislative session. The Assembly has repeatedly passed its own version of a bill on paid family leave, but it has long hit a wall in the Republican-controlled Senate. “Over a dozen years the Assembly has passed the bill probably six or seven times,” said Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan, the bill’s sponsor. “It’s great (the Senate has) come to the table after 12 years. I appreciate their interest, but we are certainly very interested in our own bill – but the door never closes to compromise.” Nolan’s paid family leave bill, co-sponsored by state Sen. Joseph Addabbo Jr., would expand the state’s temporary disability insurance program to include care of new children and family members. Employers with more than 50 employees would be required to offer a paid family leave benefit and employees would contribute up to 45 cents per week
to fund the program. The bill would ensure up to 12 weeks of paid family leave and cover two-thirds of the worker’s salary while guaranteeing job security. Currently, the federal Family and Medical Leave Act allows for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. In recent weeks, both state Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan and state Senate Labor Committee Chair Jack Martins have expressed tentative support for paid family leave. A recent poll found a growing number of Republican constituents support the idea. During the 2015 legislative session, state Senate Republicans included a proposal in their one-house budget that would allow for six weeks of paid leave for new parents and those caring for seriously ill relatives, but the plan was rejected by Gov. Andrew Cuomo as being too heavily reliant on state funding. “Certainly New York has benefitted from having a temporary disability insurance program, which has been in place for a while, which allows it to piggyback on that construct for a paid
family leave,” Martins said. “It’s not just about passing the bill, it’s about making sure everyone is on the same page and that we’re passing the best possible bill. I don’t think we’re quite there yet.” Both Nolan and Martins cautioned that any deal on paid family leave means hammering out the details, including how the program will be funded, the length of the paid leave and the percentage of the salary workers will receive while on leave. “All of these details are important and I’m looking forward to having these discussions. Frankly, I had hoped we’d have these discussions in the past,” Martins said, adding he has not yet begun discussions with his Assembly counterpart. “I have spoken to some advocates and I think there are some things we can do there. I’ve also spoken to the governor’s office about paid family leave and how we can hopefully build some consensus about
and join us to enact a strong law.” The governor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. “Compromise is important, but I also stand by the principles of our bill,” Nolan said. “We certainly welcome majority interest, but Sen. Addabbo happens to be my senator, as well, and it’s a big issue in our area. We’re not trying to abandon our colleagues in the Senate minority. It’s a very tight vote over there. I’m sure there will be senators in both parties for and against.” Both Nolan and Martins said a discussion about paid family leave will include larger talks about the state’s temporary disability insurance program. Martins said the two issues go “hand in hand,” and the fact that the temporary disability insurance stipend has not been increased in more than 20 years needs to be addressed. “I am hopeful. I think that if
“New Yorkers should not have to choose between keeping their jobs and taking care of their families.” - Mike Whyland, Assembly Democratic spokesman
it and hopefully give it a real good shot of passing this next year.” A spokesperson for the Assembly Democratic conference reiterated its commitment to passing paid family leave. “New Yorkers should not have to choose between keeping their jobs and taking care of their families,” spokesman Mike Whyland said in a statement. “It’s time for the Senate to stand on the side of working families
everyone is reasonable it will happen,” Martins said. “Unfortunately, more often than not, as much as we can agree on the concept, the details are what are important. I’m looking forward to sitting down with the governor’s office and the Assembly to build consensus around a paid family leave program and an enhanced (temporary disability insurance) program that makes sense.” cit yandstateny.com
By ASHLEY HUPFL
RACE GETS VICIOUS
ADMINISTRATION DEFENDS ITSELF FROM 11TH-HOUR ATTACKS By JUSTIN SONDEL
Incumbent Mark Poloncarz, left, faces a challenge from Assemblyman Ray Walter. organizing his own press conference, held immediately afterward, during which he outlined for other reporters what he had told City & State earlier that afternoon. The Poloncarz administration’s investigation centered on the first two phases of a $7.7 million road reconstruction project in Clarence, by far the biggest road project undertaken during Collins’ administration. The investigation uncovered indications that the invoices for completed work had been altered in order to make portions of the project eligible for state Department of Transportation money that would not otherwise fit into the state’s Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program. “My administration is not involved in the investigation,” Poloncarz told reporters assembled in a conference room in the county’s downtown offices. “My administration uncovered the information and the evidence that pertains to potential improprieties.” During the next night’s debate the probe was brought up several times, with Walter walking back the accusations of a cover-up, while keeping the possibility open that there
was still more to the story. “I don’t think Mark’s done anything wrong here,” Walter said. “I think that what this shows is that there needs to be a level of accountability in county government and we haven’t seen that.” After the debate the attention to the investigation died down, with the candidates returning to the themes they were promoting before the news of the probe broke. Poloncarz has continued to run on his record, reminding voters of his performance during a series of severe snowstorms last year and trumpeting his administration’s record on taxes, which have not gone up since he took office. Walter has continued to push a pair of tax plans – one that would redistribute sales tax, reducing the percentage given to cities to more evenly spread the money around the county, and another that would eliminate sales tax on items used for capital improvements and grant automatic tax breaks for Erie County Industrial Development Agency projects in the county’s poorest neighborhoods – while attacking Poloncarz’s ability to lead.
But last week the race heated up again, with Walter accusing Poloncarz of hypocrisy and providing favors for donors, going after the incumbent during the traditional debate at the St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute high school and in press materials. During the debate Walter accused Poloncarz of taking $50,000 from Buffalo-based developer Michael Joseph while Joseph had business before the Industrial Development Agency, where the county executive sits on the board. Walter also said that while Poloncarz criticized Collins for taking money from the politically connected law firm Harris Beach, Poloncarz has since taken donations from the firm, too. After an Industrial Development Agency meeting later in the week, Poloncarz was still perturbed when asked about the accusations. He said his administration is in no way for sale, citing an instance in which he returned a $25,000 donation from a law firm because the county was in the process of hiring counsel. “While I appreciated the support Hiscock & Barclay offered me I returned the check because I didn’t want it to appear that they were buying any type of business from the county,” Poloncarz said. As for the donations from Joseph, Poloncarz said the developer has long been a supporter of his political efforts, as well as many other prominent Democrats like Gov. Andrew Cuomo, but that the only time Joseph had business before the Industrial Development Agency – a project on which he was a secondary developer – he abstained from voting to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest. “I’m not ashamed of the strong support I have, but to offer an indictment of my administration is lacking, so to speak,” Poloncarz said. “More importantly, it’s just what you expect to see in a political environment.”
city & state — October 26, 2015
What was a relatively tame race for Erie county executive has become heated and personal in the final weeks leading up to the election. One day before incumbent Democrat Mark Poloncarz and his challenger, Republican Assemblyman Ray Walter, took the stage in the only televised debate before the election, Walter hurled accusations of a potential cover-up scandal in the Poloncarz administration, a claim the administration quickly dismissed as a baseless political maneuver during an election year. Earlier this month City & State reported that two sources speaking on the condition of anonymity had knowledge of an investigation into reporting irregularities at the Erie County Department of Public Works, then described as bid rigging. Later that day Poloncarz responded, saying the investigation predated his administration and that the county attorney had looked into some reporting irregularities on road construction projects and turned the findings over to the attorney general’s office to avoid the appearance that he was attacking Rep. Chris Collins, who was county executive at the time of the irregularities and whom Poloncarz had just defeated in a bitter campaign. “This administration runs a clean administration,” Poloncarz said. The attorney general’s office acknowledged that there was an investigation which had since been closed, but declined to say when the probe ended. While Poloncarz had told this to City & State in the early afternoon and the original story was updated online, Walter went forward with a 2:30 p.m. press conference in which he asked what Poloncarz had to hide. “We’ve heard obfuscation and cover-up from the administration up to this point,” Walter said. “We need answers.” Meanwhile, Poloncarz was
city & state — October 26, 2015
CAN NEW YORK TURN AROUND ITS DISMAL VOTER TURNOUT? By JON LENTZ
ext week, voters will cast their ballots in a smattering of races across the state. Up for grabs are a hodgepodge of county executive, district attorney, mayoral and municipal legislature posts, as well as a handful of vacant state Senate and Assembly seats in Albany. There are no presidential, congressional or statewide elections, and no New York City contests, aside from a few special elections and a slate of judgeships. Most of the campaigns are snoozers. Some candidates are running unopposed, others with token opposition. In many districts, winning the September primary was all that mattered. Even in the races garnering more headlines, such as the Nassau County and Staten Island district attorney fights and the Binghamton battle to replace ex-state Sen. Tom Libous, most voters are likely to skip a trip to the polls. Altogether, it’s shaping up to be another lonely day at the ballot box. But what’s surprising is not the lack of voter engagement – it’s that it doesn’t have to be this way. Turnout in other jurisdictions makes clear just how subpar New York’s showing is, and recent trends offer little hope for
improvement. Last year Gov. Andrew Cuomo won a second term with the lowest gubernatorial vote total since Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1930. Only a quarter of New York residents of voting age cast a ballot in the race – higher than Texas but lower than every other state. A similar figure estimating total turnout among eligible voters found New York did slightly better, with a 29 percent turnout, but the state still ranked second to last. In contrast, 58 percent of eligible voters in Maine cast a ballot. Americans often assume that their democracy is a model for the world, but a global comparison of voter participation indicates otherwise. In 2012 the United States had a turnout of slightly more than half – 53.6 percent – of its voting age population, surpassing only Japan, Chile and Switzerland among countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The 30 other OECD countries outperformed the U.S., including seven with a turnout exceeding 80 percent. It’s only a slight exaggeration to describe New York as the worst of the worst. In off-cycle elections like 2015, it gets worse still. Fewer than a quarter
of active, registered Democratic voters cast a ballot in the 2013 New York City mayoral primary. When Bill de Blasio advanced as the Democratic nominee, nearly three-quarters of the city’s electorate didn’t vote – neither for him nor for anyone else. In other local races, participation often drops even further. Take the office of Staten Island district attorney, which was recently vacated when Dan Donovan was elected to Congress: The last time it was an open race, in 2003, turnout rose to 20 percent, then dwindled to 12 percent and 11 percent as Donovan easily won re-election. In 2011, a point comparable to 2015 in the fouryear election cycle, turnout for some state Supreme Court judgeships in Manhattan, Brooklyn in Queens was around 5 percent. Another 2011 race, the hard-fought contest between then-Erie County Executive Chris Collins and challenger Mark Poloncarz, did spur relatively high turnout for an off-cycle election, but the candidates collectively mobilized only slightly more than 4 in 10 voters. That was nearly the same level of voter involvement in Erie County as in last year’s gubernatorial contest, which was notable for its lackluster turnout.
This year’s county executive contest between Poloncarz, now the incumbent, and Assemblyman Ray Walter is unlikely to increase those figures. “It seems that in New York and other states, the approach has been to make it as difficult as possible,” said state Sen. Michael Gianaris, who long has been an advocate of getting more people signed up to vote. “Make registration difficult, make voting difficult, and we get what we deserve when you see how few people are turning out to vote.”
n an individual level, some say, voting doesn’t actually make much sense. The right to vote is a foundation of representative democracy, giving citizens a say in who governs them and the policies put in place. But while anyone voting for a candidate presumably wants that candidate to win, political scientists note that a single voter has virtually no chance of determining the outcome. The reason? Elections are rarely if ever decided by one vote. Whether or not you show up, the outcome is the same. That makes the choice to cast a ballot irrational, according to the so-called paradox of voting theory.
VOTER TURNOUT: U.S. AND THE WORLD
(% OF VOTING AGE POPULATION) 100% 90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20%
United States (2012)
Czech Republic (2013)
New Zealand (2014)
* National law makes voting compulsory. Source: Pew Research Center calculations
South Korea (2012)
city & state — October 26, 2015
The costs, such as taking time out the day and travelling to a polling site, are invariably greater than the miniscule chance of actually having an impact. Some political scientists dispute that theory, citing the social commitments and rewards involved and the sense of civic duty. Others argue that the theory fails when applied collectively, rendering it of little use in the real world: If every voter acted on the conclusion that it is irrational to vote, nobody would participate and the system of democratic governance would fall apart. Whatever the case, the role of the individual is central to the question of voter turnout, especially in the U.S. Unlike other governments that take a more active role in registering citizens and encouraging voting, the American approach puts the burden on individuals. Fingers are pointed at people who don’t make it to the polls, with surveys highlighting excuses given by respondents: too busy, not interested, forgot to vote, don’t care. Some even suggest that society would be better off if the federal government didn’t take any steps at all to encourage voting. The conservative columnist George Will, for example, has suggested that the addition of “lackadaisical citizens” would diminish “the caliber of the electorate.” Echoing the views of many, Will dismissed worries over low turnout, which he attributed to gerrymandered districts, a lack of competitive elections and general voter satisfaction. Critics counter that the fundamental
campaign funds, candidates invest in getting their message through to likely voters, not recruiting new ones. New York hasn’t enacted the kinds of voter identification laws that have sprung up in some Southern states, but it hasn’t followed the lead of states like Oregon in expanding voter access, either. Some political scientists have documented the impact of nonvoting, and there’s no dispute about who is left out: the young, the poor, and racial
problems are with the voting system, not the voters. Holding elections on Tuesdays, an anachronism dating to the mid-19th century, doesn’t make it easy to get to the polls, especially for the working poor. There are sometimes as many as five elections in a single year, making it hard for all but the most dedicated voters to remember when to show up. Off-year elections, especially those with mostly obscure races like this year, further confuse
would’ve been president, undoubtedly altering national policies and priorities in the following years. Academics have concluded that organized interest groups benefit disproportionately from low turnout, especially in off-cycle elections. Local school board elections, held in the spring in New York, are particularly vulnerable, as large numbers of motivated teachers union members can more easily sway the outcomes of otherwise overlooked contests.
“It seems that in New York and other states, the approach has been to make it as difficult as possible. Make registration difficult, make voting difficult, and we get what we deserve when you see how few people are turning out to vote.” - State Sen. Michael Gianaris
voters. Even more obscure to the general population are the deadlines to switch parties, re-register at a new address or sign up to vote for the first time. Such obstacles loom even larger in a city of immigrants, transplants and the transient. Many potential voters don’t know where to go to register, and outreach is largely left to a few goodgovernment groups. With limited
and ethnic minorities. The nation’s Hispanic population is steadily growing, but its share of the electorate has been stalled since 2006, exit polls show. These trends bolster arguments that elected officials are more responsive to whiter, older and richer Americans. Scholars note that had the turnout been marginally higher in Florida in the 2000 election, Al Gore
In New York, a combination of gerrymandered districts and lower turnout in the 2014 election helped Republicans retain control of the state Senate. While in power they blocked any number of bills, from the Dream Act to the Child Safe Products Act. (A Senate Republican spokesman said the conference won on “the quality of our candidates and
VOTER TURNOUT: THE STATES (% OF VOTING AGE POPULATION, NOVEMBER 2014) 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20%
District of Columbia
0% United States
city & state — October 26, 2015
* Mississippi, New Mexico and Texas were excluded from this analysis Source: United States Election Project cit yandstateny.com
voter. Her top primary rival, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, said during their first debate that “we need to have one of the larger voter turnouts in the world, not one of the lowest.” Rep. Steve Israel of Long Island has introduced legislation to move Election Day from Tuesday to the weekend. Others have called for the congressional and state primaries, which are on different days in New York, to be held at the same time. Another potential change that might be the single biggest boost for local election turnout would be to combine them with state and federal elections in even years. In New York City, de Blasio has rallied behind Clinton’s national early voting proposal. “But I don’t think New York City or New York state are doing well enough either,” he said on “Face the Nation” this summer. “Our elections are governed by state law. And for a long time, I have believed we need to make a fundamental series of reforms. Let’s face it. Historically, a lot of people in the political class have tried to discourage voter involvement.” New York City Councilman Ben Kallos has sponsored more than half a dozen bills addressing voter access, including one signed into law by de Blasio expands the number of city agencies that offer voter registration. Other measures would allow absentee voting at the same time someone
Last year Andrew Cuomo won a second term with the lowest gubernatorial vote since 1930. Vote) Weekend and then calling voters on one day over a couple of hours, you’d be able to go literally door by door and bring people out to elections. That is one of the things that is a big change that happens with elections in terms of participation.” Ultimately, though, it’s the state that decides how and when people vote. In the state Senate, several bills have been introduced that would
“By moving Election Day from a couple of hours one day a year or a couple times a year to a situation where people can vote whenever they feel like it, by mail or however they wish, or in person, that really changes things.” - New York City Councilman Ben Kallos
was our best argument. You know what? State Senate? It’s hard to motivate people about a state Senate.”
ther politicians have called for a forceful response to low voter turnout. Hillary Clinton, the leading Democratic presidential candidate, issued campaign proposals that would mandate 20 days of early in-person voting and institute automatic registration for every eligible cit yandstateny.com
registers and institute instant runoff voting. But the most significant reform, Kallos said, would be early voting. “By moving Election Day from a couple of hours one day a year or a couple times a year to a situation where people can vote whenever they feel like it, by mail or however they wish, or in person, that really changes things,” Kallos said. “It’s changed elections, and instead of trying to do (Get Out the
allow voter registration on Election Day, voting by mail and unifying the congressional and state primaries on a single day. The top priority for Gianaris, the Democratic deputy minority leader of the state Senate, is a universal voter registration bill similar to Clinton’s national plan. “They wouldn’t have to fill out a form, they wouldn’t have to meet any deadlines, no nothing,” Gianaris said. “When you turn 18, you get a notice at
home saying, congratulations, you’re registered to vote. All you’ve got to do is show up on Election Day. That would register over 2 million people in the state who are eligible but unregistered right now. By way of comparison, in last year’s gubernatorial election, a little over three and a half million people voted. So you can imagine what kind of an impact adding over 2 million people to the rolls might have in a situation like that.” Although expanded voter rolls would likely boost Democratic candidates – and Republicans have blocked such legislation in recent years – Gianaris insisted that his efforts are nonpartisan. The battle lines, he said, are between those in power and those who aren’t. When he was in the majority in the state Assembly, for example, many of his fellow Democrats looked askance at his voting proposals. But if the elected officials who are in power have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo, how will things ever change? Pointing to the widespread dissatisfaction with government and alienation among voters in an era of political gridlock, Gianaris suggested that the situation might get worse before it gets better. “I think we’re going to reach a crisis point where so few people are voting that the faith in our institutions is going to be diminished,” he said. “We already see that happening. The state Legislature is held in low regard, as is the U.S. Congress, and I think people would be more invested in the outcomes if more people were participating in the process.”
city & state — October 26, 2015
DARREN MCGEE/OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR
the strength of our message” and had taken “meaningful steps to encourage citizens to participate in elections and in their own state government, and we will continue to do so.”) Some observers suggest that New York City’s tradition of lackluster turnout may have played into Cuomo’s centrist approach and his focus on economic development projects in upstate New York and the political views of suburban residents. In effect, the less that voters in the five boroughs show up to the polls, the less they’re listened to in Albany. The governor has publicly supported redistricting reform and public financing of elections, albeit with little success, but he has not made voter registration and turnout a priority. In a radio interview a couple days after his re-election last November, Cuomo downplayed his poor showing. Despite New York underperforming nearly every other state, the governor laid the blame on the nationwide decline in voting and the lack of a strong gubernatorial challenger. “There was no real state issues or state excitement or state energy,” he said in an interview with “The Capitol Pressroom.” “My race was never close. There were no big issues that were driving a state turnout that would overwhelm the national phenomenon. ‘Well, come out for the state Senate,’
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city & state — June 15, 2015
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GREEN NEW YORK
GREEN NEW YORK
19 No matter where you are in the world, there is a constant struggle between the interests of business and government’s role in protecting the environment. In some places the scales are tipped almost entirely toward business. Practically nowhere is the reverse true, where environmental protection completely trumps economic activity. But in New York there is a balance that has been forged through countless battles. Advocates on both sides use heated rhetoric to argue that jobs are being killed, or the environment destroyed, but generally government officials have established a position in the middle of the road where they can champion a proenvironment position and stave off the anti-business tag. One thing that has helped elected leaders develop this political flexibility has been the increasing investment into business ventures deemed to be “green” or good for the environment. In our spotlight section, we look at some of the top issues being debated when it comes to clean energy and recycling in New York City. We also hear from the top government officials deciding policy that regulates activities in the places where we live.
20 … Union, recycling advocates promote city trash zone plan By Sarina Trangle
24 … Advocates say GE needs to keep cleaning the Hudson River By Will Brunelle
26 … City looks to reward sustainability with financial incentives By Sarina Trangle
28 … State energy overhaul is ‘REV’ing up By Jon Lentz
city & state — October April 22,26, 2015 2015
GREEN NEW YORK
TALKING UP TRASH ZONES
UNION, RECYCLING ADVOCATES PROMOTE PLAN TO REVAMP CITY’S SANITATION SETUP By SARINA TRANGLE
city & state — October April 22,26, 2015 2015
PHOTOS BY ARMAN DZIDZOVIC
Traffic along 14th Street does not let up by midnight. A young man clung to the rear of an Elite Waste Hauler LLC truck, occasionally waving his arms in sync with whatever was pulsing through his earbuds. His reflective vest gleamed when he passed under the street lamps, illuminating his black hoodie, dark athletic pants and sneakers. The truck stopped. Another sanitation worker ran across the busy
street, hoisted up sheets of cardboard and lobbed it ahead of the oncoming traffic back to the young man, who tossed it into the truck’s backside beside black bags of trash. New York City’s commercial waste industry has come under scrutiny, with some contending that lax oversight has contributed to a recycling rate that may be as low as 24 percent and has forced vulnerable populations to work long shifts without proper pay, boots or
other standard equipment. Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration has undertaken a feasibility study of a zoning system in which the boroughs would be carved into sectors, and companies would compete for a license to collect waste in each one. This could prevent dozens of hauling companies from all serving businesses along the same commercial strip and bypassing waste facilities to reach the one they use. Beyond curbing pollution from
trucks, long-term licenses may spur companies to invest in newer, greener technology and encourage recycling. Transform Don’t Trash, an alliance of organized labor and environmental justice advocates, is also urging the city to include labor provisions in the bidding process. The regulatory scheme may help the administration reach its goals of sending no waste to landfills by 2030 and dramatically reducing greenhouse cit yandstateny.com
than happy to have those discussions.” One former city sanitation worker, however, described his experience working without a union as unbearable. Steven Torres took a position in January with Viking Carting Company amid Local 813’s attempts to organize its workers. Torres said nobody trained him or paid for boots, gloves, a reflective vest or other gear, which Local 813 said is mandated by the federal government.
“I know something. I know when I asked for antibiotics, they couldn’t cover it.” - Steven Torres, former sanitation worker in New York City who was injured on the job
wages and more advanced technology could push prices to levels that are prohibitively expensive for small businesses. “Too often, most or all of the goals I just recited are presented as if they are fairly easy to obtain through a commercial zone collection plan,” Brownell said at an April City Council hearing. “The reality is that many of these items actually compete with each other, one lessening the ability to achieve another. … It is important that we review this closely.”
An uncle of his stepped in and offered informal guidance. Torres said he was preparing to have a truck pull in a large, rectangular garbage container when its hook came out of place. One of the container’s wheels rolled over his left hand and broke his ring finger, Torres said. He said his finger was dressed in a splint, but then it took two weeks to get workers’ compensation and insurance in order to undergo surgery. “They didn’t even call me to know if I was OK,” said Torres, who estimated his medical bills amounted to about
$15,000. “I really don’t know if they paid for that. But I know something. I know when I asked for antibiotics, they couldn’t cover it.” When he returned to work two months later, Torres said he struggled to get the same number of hours he previously had. He noticed colleagues who did not meet with the Local 813 reps, as he had, were paid $140 a night in cash, as opposed to the $120 check he received. Employees heard a Viking executive had shown up at a Dunkin’ Donuts where a worker had planned – but ultimately skipped – a meeting with two Local 813 reps, according to James Curbeam, an organizer with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. The executive did not speak to the union organizers, but word got around that he watched them “look stupid,” Curbeam said. A lawyer for Viking declined to comment. A union election planned for June 17 was called off when Local 813 filed multiple allegations with the National Labor Relations Board alleging Viking engaged in domination and coercive actions and made coercive statements. Torres ultimately decided to move to Florida. “They’re telling the workers that (Local 813) is no good, they’re going to give us a better union when all this is done,” Torres said. “But we all know that that’s not true.” Local 813 said Viking executives
were promoting two “rogue” unions – IUJAT’s United Services Workers Union Local 890 and League of International Federated Employees’ Local 339 – in an effort to quell organizing. Neither Local 890 nor Local 339 returned calls for comment. Both filed federal forms required of unions with less than $250,000 in annual receipts and did not report collecting dues or paying staff, which Local 813 said raises questions about their viability. The environment at Viking is emblematic of the industry, Local 813 said. Workers said it was standard practice for companies to pay by the night, but design routes with so many stops that a shift could span 14 hours or more. They contend this prevents them from earning overtime or other benefits associated with being considered a fulltime employee. One driver said he had not been able to take a paid vacation in two years. With safety precautions and pay lagging, Local 813 said those who go into the private sanitation industry often have few options. Curbeam said one Viking worker lived in a shelter; another worker named a company he avoided because it was known to hire undocumented workers and pay poorly; and many said those coming out of prison manned trucks in an industry long ranking among the most dangerous. When it comes to labor violations,
GREEN NEW YORK
gas emissions, according to Dan Brownell, chairman of the Business Integrity Commission, which licenses commercial hauling companies. But Brownell cautioned against viewing zoning as a panacea for an array of competing policy concerns. For instance, adding recycling streams would require additional trucks, which could counteract the pollution reduced by streamlining routes; or higher
Teamsters Local 813, which represents commercial sanitation workers and is part of Transform Don’t Trash, would like to see labor peace agreements tied to licenses. Such accords typically prevent workers from striking or boycotting and give unions more leverage in attempting to organize. But Local 813’s support has raised questions about why it takes a push from organized labor to get the government to supervise the sector. Tom Toscano, the head of the National Waste & Recycling Association’s New York City chapter, said the government currently has tools to halt worker mistreatment and the industry can independently help the city meet its policy goals without buttressing a union. “(Local 813) is looking to use this to try to get their stranglehold on the industry back,” Toscano said. “Why don’t they enforce the laws that we have? I am completely in favor of that. If the City Council wants to call us in there and ask how they can do it, or the BIC for that matter, I would be more cit yandstateny.com
city & state — October April 22,26, 2015 2015
LABOR PROTECTIONS SCARCE
GREEN NEW YORK city & state — October April 22,26, 2015 2015
BIC’s Brownell and Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia both said at the April City Council hearing that their agencies only have limited authority. They noted enforcement tended to fall on the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration and state Department of Labor. In the past year, OSHA has launched 27 investigations of refuse collection and material recovery facilities in the state, nine of which resulted in a collective 26 violations and $59,720 in penalties. The governor, meanwhile, convened a Task Force to Combat Worker Exploitation and Abuse charged with rooting out illegal practices in the waste disposal sector and other industries. The governor’s office said commercial haulers were targeted because the Department of Labor had received complaints about employees being misclassified, often as contractors. Since 2011, the state has identified nearly 5,477 misclassified workers in the larger trucking industry and uncovered nearly $2.1 million in related unpaid unemployment insurance. Still, Local 813 President Sean Campbell said it’s difficult for workers to know where they can file a complaint and expect a response. “I would like an answer to that question as well,” Campbell said. He said he hoped the city’s zoning plan could remedy the situation. “The city would be the one to hand out the zones, so with that being said, you would have safety standards, you would also have a wage standard, and you will have somebody, now, paying attention to what’s happening.”
communicates with hauling companies that collectively handle at least 60 percent of the city’s commercial waste, and he’s never heard of any exploitative employment practices. He said the government has tools to end illegal practices, and he would be happy to assist it in doing so. As for underpayment, Toscano said rates are so competitive he had to raise entry-level pay at one of his businesses, Mr. T Carting, twice over the past two years to attract more personnel. Toscano said his average employee makes more than $70,000 annually, has full health benefits and a pension plan under Local 339 representation. The mean entry-level salary for refuse and recyclable collectors in New York City is $41,430, according to state Department of Labor figures. Under a zoning system, Toscano said haulers would likely be unable
to accommodate scheduling, say, for bars that want garbage picked up after last call rather than when neighboring restaurants’ trash is picked up at 10 p.m. The Transform Don’t Trash alliance contends, however, that businesses are not being well served by the current market setup. The group put out a report claiming 61 percent of businesses surveyed do not have a written contract with their hauler, and many small companies were unable to negotiate discounts for recycling like their larger counterparts. Still, Toscano predicted – and BIC’s Brownell agreed – that small firms would likely be shut out of the bidding process. And Toscano said the lack of competition would lead to customers shouldering the burden of price spikes. “You have a franchise system in the city of New York right now, and that’s the Department of Sanitation,” Toscano said, noting that, based on the department’s budget, he believed it spent twice as much per ton handling waste as private companies. “And then you have the organized labor piece of this. And if you ask the obvious question – why are they pushing it? – it’s to put things back, in a way, to the way they were 20 years ago. You won’t have organized crime running it. But you’ll have a situation.” THE MOB CONNECTION For years, organized crime controlled the commercial sanitation industry and inflated prices, sometimes with cooperation from Local 813 leadership.
Nevertheless, workers saw the union as an ally. Thirty years ago, at age 15, Local 813 organizer Allan Henry started at a now-defunct hauling company in the Bronx. After a few months, his boss began withholding his paychecks. Local 813 told him he was being underpaid. Henry told a cousin he worked with, and the union helped the two sort out the issue in a meeting with their bosses. Henry said he and his cousin then followed instructions and showed up for that night’s shift. While backing the truck out of a garage, he heard the pop of a gunshot, followed by his cousin yelling that he’d been shot. Henry believes the gunmen arrested a few blocks away had been paid by his bosses. Once his cousin healed, both moved on to different hauling companies. Henry says that as a teen, $16.10 an hour plus a pension for working as a helper was attractive; he never imagined a time when helpers could make as little as $8.75 an hour, as some do now. Eventually, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani established what became known as the BIC to license and vet haulers without ties to organized crime. The city set maximum rates in a bid to prevent collusion among companies from driving up costs. Today, both Toscano and the Teamsters said this strategy led to the growth of nonunion companies and forced the industry to lower its costs and compensation to compete. Local 813 saw its membership drop from the majority of the sector to about 2,200, National Labor Relations Board documents show.
THE BENEFITS OF COMPETITION Toscano disputed Local 813’s allegations, saying his association regularly cit yandstateny.com
By Ron Kirk Those leading the charge to close New York’s nuclear energy facilities do so on the basis of long-held misconceptions while ignoring two crucial points: the state cannot maintain a reliable electricity grid or meet targets set in the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) without nuclear energy.
A CALL TO REFINE RECYCLING Meanwhile, little was done to green the industry. The de Blasio administration estimates the city’s commercial sector generates 3 million tons of waste per year, and less than one-third of it is recycled. But the Transform Don’t Trash alliance puts this figure much higher, around 5.5 million tons per year, based on an unpublished 2012 study the city commissioned that was acquired through a Freedom of Information Law request. While watching haulers at work this fall, Teamsters pointed out drivers and helpers heaving bags of trash and recycling into the same truck. Some workers interviewed reported rarely running separate routes to gather cardboard and paper. At Brooklyn Transfer LLC, which is licensed to handle traditional trash, and Hi-Tech Resource Recovery Inc., which is licensed to take in waste and commingled paper and containers, haulers poured waste onto the floors of expansive garages, where scraps of paper were mixed in. Cardboard could be seen in a bucket of refuse that was scooped up and loaded into a tractor-trailer, likely bound for a landfill. Roughly 66 percent of cardboard and paper collected from businesses are put in landfills or incinerated annually, according to the Transform Don’t Trash alliance. Just 6 percent of the city’s commercial waste stays in the state, with most of it traveling an average 272 miles to landfills as far as South Carolina. Toscano, whose company also runs Hi-Tech, pinned the problem on customers who don’t separate out their recycling. He said his staff manually picks out recyclables. And he added that Hi-Tech may buy a machine to funnel out additional recycling from waste. “We think we can get the number up to around 10 percent out of what we’ll take out of that stream (of garbage), but about 30 percent of our tonnage is already recycled through picking it up separately, through cardboard and the food waste,” he said. cit yandstateny.com
The city’s current recycling rules are applied differently to various businesses: Office buildings must pull out paper products, while restaurants must separate out cans and bottles, according to Justin Wood, an environmental justice community organizer at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, a member of the Transform Don’t Trash alliance. The rules grant the sanitation commissioner the right to inspect whether waste is properly sorted at the curb as well as at transfer stations, but not at recycling facilities, Wood said. The state Department of Environmental Conservation, which oversees recycling plants, monitors them to make sure they are complying with rules that keep them from having more than 15 percent of material deemed residue, or non-recycled waste, each year. The department said it takes enforcement action when appropriate. But it does not conduct inspections to ensure recyclable material is not landfilled. New rules proposed by the city would establish more uniform recycling standards for all businesses and more clearly articulate that sorted material must be kept separate from the moment it’s placed at the curb for pickup. Wood described the rules as a positive step, but said more monitoring and enforcement would be needed to ensure they’re followed. A zoning system could be pivotal for this, he argued. The administration is advancing a 2006-era plan to open marine transfer stations and use barges to transport trash. But communities in North Brooklyn, Southeast Queens and the South Bronx, where land transfer stations are clustered, say it’s time to curb the truck traffic and pollution associated with the private industry, too, according to City Council Sanitation and Solid Waste Committee Chairman Antonio Reynoso. “If anybody is going to make it a priority, it’s going to be this administration,” Reynoso said. “We hope (the mayor) changes the conversation when it comes to trash and inequities.”
New York’s six reactors generate one-third of the state’s electricity. Of the state’s electricity sources that do not produce air pollution or greenhouse gases, nuclear energy generates 61 percent. That’s why hundreds of people rallied Oct. 5 in upstate New York to keep the Fitzpatrick nuclear plant operational. Despite these sizeable percentages, a vocal minority is seeking to close New York’s nuclear facilities. Through this misguided effort, they are advocating for the elimination of one of the most powerful tools in the toolbox to fight climate change. Under EPA’s regulation, New York must reduce carbon dioxide by more than 3 million short tons a year by 2030. If just one nuclear energy facility comes off line between now and 2030, New York will have an incredibly difficult time meeting this target. For example, if Indian Point Energy Center were to close prematurely, New York would have to find 18.2 million megawatt hours of clean energy a year to replace it. To put that in perspective, this is as much as 150 square miles of solar panels — more than four times the size of Manhattan. Replacing it with wind would require 520 to 720 square miles of wind farms —more than all five boroughs put together. Furthermore, wind and solar power are intermittent electricity producers. So, new natural gas plants would be needed for when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining.
It goes without saying that investments in wind and solar energy should be a part of New York’s electricity portfolio. The state should embrace all forms of clean energy — especially in light of growing electricity demand. If we can agree upon the need to move toward a clean energy portfolio, then we should support New York’s nuclear energy facilities. In doing so, New York will preserve 18,000 in-state full time jobs and a nearly $2.5 billion boost to the state’s gross domestic product, according to a recent study by The Brattle Group. Nuclear energy’s foes should look at the facts: with nuclear energy you get clean energy — and without nuclear energy, the CPP’s targets will be out of reach. Ambassador Ron Kirk is co-chair of the Clean and Safe Energy Coalition. He previously served as U.S. trade representative and mayor of Dallas. SPECIAL SPONSORED SECTION
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.
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city & state — October April 22,26, 2015 2015
Roughly 66 percent of cardboard and paper collected from New York City businesses are put in landfills or incinerated annually ...
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Nuclear Energy’s Opponents Undervalue Environmental and Economic Benefits
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UNFINISHED BUSINESS AS CUOMO COURTS GE, ADVOCATES SAY COMPANY NEEDS TO KEEP CLEANING UP THE HUDSON
city & state — October April 22,26, 2015 2015
Despite Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s efforts to woo its corporate headquarters back to the Hudson Valley, General Electric might face a less-than-warm welcome from those who want to see the company continue cleaning up the Hudson River. The environmental advocacy group Hudson Riverkeeper spent decades hounding GE to clean up the roughly 1.3 million pounds of polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, the company dumped into the Hudson River from the 1940s until the 1970s. In 2002, a cleanup was mandated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and came with the requirement that GE remove 55 percent of the remaining PCBs from the riverbed. In early October, GE announced that it had successfully collected 2.76 million cubic yards of contaminated sediment from the riverbed, and removed 310,000 pounds of PCBs over the course of its six-year operation. Both GE and the EPA have declared the company’s work done, and called the project a success that exceeded the initial expectations of both the EPA and environmental watchdogs. “Thirteen years ago, I committed GE to undertaking an environmental dredging project of a size, scope and complexity that had not been attempted before,” said GE CEO Jeff Immelt in a statement on the day the work ended. “We brought world-class GE engineering and technology to the task, and we met every obligation on the Hudson, and will continue to do so. I am proud of the work of our GE team and confident that the dredging project will benefit the Hudson for generations to come.” The company’s announcement touted the $1 billion it had invested in the project, which took seven years to prepare for, in addition to the six
COLIN D. YOUNG
By WILL BRUNELLE
years of actual cleanup. Similarly, the EPA praised the dredging project’s success, as well as GE’s ability to complete it ahead of schedule. “The project was completed in less time than expected with less secondary impacts than predicted, such as re-suspending sediments into the water column during dredging,” the agency said in a statement. “This project is the most extensive dredging project undertaken in the nation, and its success is a historic achievement for the recovery of the Hudson River. It was also a success for the local economy – providing about 500 jobs at its peak.” Cuomo and his administration,
meanwhile, have washed their hands of the project altogether, and are attempting to convince GE to bring its corporate headquarters to Westchester from its current home in Fairfield, Connecticut. But the advocates at Hudson Riverkeeper insist that GE’s work is far from finished. Abigail Jones, a staff attorney for Riverkeeper, said the company should be forced to continue cleaning up PCBs and contaminated sediment for much longer, given the amount of waste remaining in the riverbed. “Despite what the EPA and GE have been claiming, the river is not clean,” Jones said. “The fish won’t even be something our communities can eat
for decades, if not generations.” Jones acknowledged that GE had exceeded the requirements of its mandated cleanup, but said the 2002 agreement didn’t place adequate expectations on the project to begin with. “They’ve done a great job of getting what they’re supposed to be getting out of the river, but they need to do more,” she said. “While GE sticks its head in the sand, saying, ‘We’re doing everything we’re supposed to be doing,’ they’re ignoring other responsibilities.” For Jones and the rest of the Riverkeeper team, it’s especially frustrating that Cuomo and his administration have not weighed in cit yandstateny.com
and our economy,” Jones said. A spokesman for GE said only that the company has met the standards set by the EPA, and would happily do more dredging if the federal government mandates it. He also said the company remains undecided about moving its headquarters. Cuomo has refused to reveal what incentives he’s offering GE in exchange for the potential move, but has described the offer as putting a “lot of love” on the table. He has insisted that the dredging project and the potential headquarters shift are separate issues, and neither has influenced his action on the other. GE, meanwhile, maintains a significant presence in New York, with thousands of workers at its Schenectady facility, part of its Power & Water branch, and researchers collaborating at several New York universities. Cuomo regularly praises the company as an economic driver for the Capital Region, and rarely fails to tout Immelt’s contributions to New York’s economic development initiatives. Jones declined to comment on whether Riverkeeper would be happy to see GE bring its corporate headquarters back to New York, but did say the river’s health should be more of a priority for the state than winning back GE’s residency. “GE is living in an ‘eco-imaginary’ world if it believes its dredging of the Hudson River is anywhere near complete,” Jones said in a statement issued after GE announced its cleanup work was done. “GE should live up to the socially and environmentally responsible image it markets and thoroughly address all of the PCB contamination it created. Until it does, GE can’t claim a job well done, and leave the Hudson River and its communities with this mess.”
Nuclear power key in curbing climate change By Carol Browner As a former administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, I have long supported clean air and the need to limit the pollutants that contribute to climate change. This past August, I was pleased to see the EPA release a Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon pollution from existing generation sources in order to make meaningful progress towards a clean energy future.
GREEN NEW YORK
on whether the work should continue. Since the end of the dredging project, Cuomo has insisted it is the federal government’s job to determine whether more work needs to be done. “The state and Gov. Cuomo have a duty to the people of New York to protect this national heritage site,” Jones said. “Their silence is extremely disheartening.” Spokespeople for Cuomo did not respond to repeated requests for comment. Recently, the Hudson River Natural Resource Trustees, a group of federal and state agencies tasked with ensuring the health of the river, sent a letter to the EPA calling for the existing dredging infrastructure and machinery to be left in place, so more operations can be undertaken in the future. But the state Department of Environmental Conservation was notably absent from the letter, despite its status as a trustee and its previous participation in numerous other letters sent by the group. The EPA, meanwhile, is awaiting the results of the trustees’ study of the river before deciding whether to order further cleanup, and in the meantime views GE’s work as done. Gary Klawinski, the head of the EPA’s Hudson Valley field office, said, “To this point, they’ve done what we’ve asked them to do, what we’ve required them to do. From the EPA’s perspective, they’re in compliance with our agreement.” Jones, meanwhile, said the state should order its own investigation into the river’s health, and that Cuomo’s administration needs to “step up” and insist on a more extensive cleanup. “Nobody can, with a straight face, claim ignorance to what the remaining PCBs in the Hudson River mean to our environment, and to our health,
In order for our country to make meaningful reductions in its carbon pollution, we must generate more energy from clean energy sources like wind, solar and other renewables and preserve zero-carbon energy sources like our existing nuclear power fleet. While I have always supported cleaner energy and protecting the public’s health from the dangers of pollution, my views on nuclear power have evolved. I came to understand and appreciate that if we are serious about building a clean energy future, the role that our current nuclear energy facilities play deserves reconsideration. Just look at the numbers: in 2014, existing nuclear energy plants produced nearly 20 percent of the country’s electricity supply, but more importantly, accounted for 63 percent of all carbon-free electricity – keeping the lights on without polluting the air. A recent report from the Brattle Group found that average annual carbon pollution would be about 26 million tons greater annually without the power generated by New York’s nuclear power plants. New York has been and continues to be a leader in the fight against climate change. In 2005, New York was a founding member of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative — the first multi-state cooperative effort in the United States to reduce carbon pollution from the power sector. In the face of rising sea levels, increased temperatures, and the increasing frequency of extreme weather as was seen during Superstorm Sandy, New York has taken seriously its commitment to reduce its carbon pollution.
For Americans concerned with clean air and public health, the Clean Power Plan should be viewed as a significant victory in support of this common sense principle that millions of us understand: developing and deploying clean-energy sources is critical to the long-term health and economic security of this country. I am confident that we will look back upon 2015 as the year that American leadership, ingenuity and innovation rose to the occasion to make more meaningful progress in fighting climate change, with New York leading the way. Carol Browner served as Environmental Protection Agency administrator from 1993-2001, as Florida’s Secretary of Environmental Regulation from 1991-1993, and as director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy in the Obama administration from 2009 to 2011. She is also a Leadership Council member for Nuclear Matters.
Dredging equipment in the Hudson in 2009.
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.
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city & state — October April 22,26, 2015 2015
DENNIS W. DONOHUE
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city & state — October April 22,26, 2015 2015
Ambassador Ron Kirk of the Clean and Safe Energy Coalition at the On Energy event.
State Sen. Kevin Parker, Long Island Association President Kevin Law and NY AREA Chairman Jerry Kremer.
NILDA MESA Director, New York City Mayor’s Office of Sustainability
City & State: The city has ambitious goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050 and reducing waste by 90 percent by 2030. Can you walk us through some of the ways the city will be accomplishing these goals? Nilda Mesa: There’s no one silver bullet on these things. It winds up being an array of different strategies. The 80x50 goal was set about a year ago. We started focusing on buildings because buildings make up 71 percent or so of the city’s overall greenhouse gas emissions. In April we added the power sector as well as transportation and solid waste, which make up the rest of the greenhouse gas emissions toll. We’ve announced things like the retrofit accelerator, which will be providing technical assistance, and it’s free of charge to building owners. We’ve doubled solar in the last 20 months throughout the city. We issued a request for information for providing 100 percent renewable energy-sourced electricity for the city’s municipal operations. We figured, well, this is a good way to send out the signal that in fact there’s a very large and very stable customer that’s very interested in getting a lot of renewable energy. C&S: Can you tell us more about the retrofit accelerator program? NM: We’re studying something like 20 different building typologies, what the best practices would be and what the best rate of return would be for various strategies. We have a building technical working group that is made up of about 50 different stakeholders – from across real estate to advocates to you name it – and what we’re doing with that is developing a series of options for the city to be examining by the early part of next year. There are a number of building owners who are in our database already because they are required to provide information, benchmarking on energy use and so forth, and so with that we’re
able to reach out to those building owners and say, “Look, based on the information we have on other buildings within your class and of your age, we see that you could be performing better. These are the types of strategies and here are the types of resources that you should be able to access to get to it.” So what we’re trying to do is remove some of the soft costs, some of the obstacles. C&S: One difference in OneNYC seems to be around equity goals. Can you give an example or two of how the equity goals are fusing with the sustainability vision? NM: One of the things that became very apparent to us, which is different from earlier versions of PlaNYC, is that 45.1 percent of the city’s residents live either in poverty or near poverty. At the same time, we have more jobs than we’ve ever had before. So how do you kind of bridge that gap? One of the things that we were looking at as we were developing 80x50 is how does that have an impact on air quality? Our key goal there is that of lifting 800,000 New Yorkers out of poverty. It wasn’t, “What is it that New York City government can do all by its lonesome?” but, “Who do we need to be working with in order to meet these goals for the city as a whole?” C&S: Some have expressed concern that the equity focus in this might dilute some of the focus on sustainability goals. What do you think of that concern? NM: It’s a false division. If what you’re doing is cutting down on greenhouse gas emissions from buildings, like say through clean heat and switching out No. 6 fuel oil, which is the dirtiest of the fuel oils, not only are you saving the building owner money, but at the end of the day, that has an impact on tenants and on affordability for housing. It also has an impact on the local air quality and their ability to go to work. So all of these things work together. cit yandstateny.com
In politics there are a lot of divisive issues where people argue passionately for their cause, but in the end a resolution is unlikely – because ultimately it is not necessary. The issue of energy is not one of these topics. While people have vastly different beliefs on how best to power our country and what the balance should be between providing low-cost, reliable energy and protecting the environment, it’s in everybody’s interest to get things done – and do them right. At City & State’s On Energy conference, sponsored by the New York Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance, this dynamic was on display as industry leaders, experts and elected officials debated a host of topics: from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s much-discussed Reforming the Energy Vision plan, to the future of recycling in New York City, to the role nuclear power plays in the country’s long-term strategy. The following articles give a taste of the discussions featured at the conference.
CITY HOPES TO ENCOURAGE SUSTAINABILITY WITH FINANCIAL INCENTIVES By SARINA TRANGLE
By Norris McDonald
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GREEN FOR GREEN
Nuclear Power: The Bridge to a Renewable Energy Future The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently released a final Clean Power Plan that requires states to take steps to reduce carbon emissions. New York, which generates 51 percent of its power from zero carbon emitting nuclear and hydro, is well positioned to achieve the Clean Power Plan’s mandates but faces challenges. Achieving the Plan’s goals is only feasible if the state keeps its non-emitting sources of power.
From left, Nilda Mesa and Kathryn Garcia at the On Energy event. A tax break for recycling? That’s an idea the de Blasio administration is considering. At City & State’s On Energy event this month, New York City Department of Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia spoke about using incentives, rather than penalties, to build support for greener practices, pointing out that tying policy goals to people’s wallets often persuades them to develop more sustainable habits. Garcia said the city has brainstormed ways to compel people to treat less material as garbage and begin recycling more food scraps and other materials. “We’re looking at how do you save as you throw?” Garcia said. “How can you incentivize people rather than penalize people? So if you reduce and you recycle, you would end up paying less than a certain amount on your property taxes, for example.” Moderating the panel was Jonathan Bowles, the executive director of the Center for an Urban Future think tank. He asked Garcia about how pricing may figure into the city’s approach to reducing plastic bags and meeting larger sustainability goals. More than 20 City Council members signed on to a bill last year that would have added a 10-cent fee on plastic bags in the city. Some critics contended the fee was regressive in that it would saddle lower-income New Yorkers with a proportionally larger lift (though the legislation does allow stores to waive the fee for those on food stamps and WIC). The administration has said it has been studying the idea for months. cit yandstateny.com
“We are definitely looking at doing fees for plastic bags,” Garcia said. “We clearly want to take on the issue of single-use bags, and plastic bags in particular, not only because of the environmental damage, but – goodness! – do they act like hair on a vacuum cleaner in a recycling plant.” Garcia said consumers do adapt their behavior to new cost schemes, and the city saw this with water rates, but said the de Blasio administration wants to ensure it is “equitable” in using this tactic going forward. “Price signals matter,” she said. “Most other people across the country pay in some way for their disposable waste, and it really does change behavior pretty rapidly. But we don’t want to be punitive. … We are somewhat different in that we’re such a high percentage of renters.” Also on the panel was Nilda Mesa, director of the city’s Office of Sustainability. She outlined a similar approach of rewarding good practices with incentives, discussing how the administration aims to entice landlords to retrofit their buildings with more energy-efficient technology by showing them when and how it can be most cost effective. Mesa said the city expects about 80 percent of the 1 million buildings standing today will remain in 2050, so its “retrofit accelerator” initiative will be key in meeting its goal of cutting 2005 greenhouse gas emission rates by 80 percent in the next 35 years.
Many countries around the world rely on nuclear to meet energy demands while protecting the environment. China, which recently surpassed the United States as the world’s largest economy, is using nuclear to combat the heavy pollution that has risen along with its explosive growth. Pollution in China is at an extreme level. 17 percent of all deaths in the country are attributable to pollution, according to a study by Berkeley Earth. China has committed itself to doubling its nuclear and renewable energy generation by 2030 as a way to immediately combat the toxic pollution.
In New York, nuclear power can provide the state with reliable, affordable and clean energy while serving as the bridge to the future giving the renewable industry time to further develop. The state will be better able to pick and choose the best options for future renewable projects going forward and will not feel pressure to blindly accept or even fund questionable projects. A competitive marketplace where private investors can take risks will be more efficient and technologies will develop faster. Taxpayers should not be forced to subsidize projects, either directly or indirectly, and government should not decide the winners or losers. The path to a clean energy future is clear and nuclear will help take New York there. Norris McDonald is the Founder and President African American Environmental Association (AAEA) and a member of the New York AREA Advisory Board. SPECIAL SPONSORED SECTION
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.
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city & state — October April 22,26, 2015 2015
For instance, powerful activists in the state have called for the closure of the Indian Point Energy Center, a nuclear power plant that provides 25 percent of New York City’s power while preventing the emission of 8.5 million metric tons of carbon annually. Building natural gas plants, which would be the only viable near-term replacement solution for Indian Point, would lead to a significant increase in carbon emissions and set back the state’s environmental progress.
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ENERGY CHAIRMAN SAYS NEW YORK IS ON ITS WAY TO A NEW, MORE NIMBLE SYSTEM By JON LENTZ
Richard Kauffman at the On Energy event. Reforming the Energy Vision, the Cuomo administration’s ambitious effort to transform the electricity distribution and generation system in New York, has been taking important steps forward, the state’s top energy official said. “This is not just about talk,” Richard Kauffman, the state’s chairman of energy and finance, said at City & State’s On Energy conference this month. “We can point to a record of stuff that we have been doing to bring this vision about.” The REV initiative envisions a state-of-the-art grid with more distributed generation, which could reduce demand on the energy grid; widespread implementation of smart grid technology to more efficiently balance the energy load; and greater reliance on renewable energy. The plan could also save billions of dollars by reducing the need to build large new power plants or make other major capital investments, potentially saving money for customers as well. But while many officials and industry experts are optimistic about Cuomo’s plans, some say it’s still unclear how much the comprehensive overhaul will cost, how it will be paid
for, and when tangible improvements will be seen. Some $30 billion will be needed on capital investment over the next 10 years, up from $17 billion over the past decade, Kauffman noted. Instead of investing all of that on maintaining an outdated system, he said, much of it should be spent instead on building out a new, more nimble system. Con Edison, Kauffman said, is already moving in that direction with a program underway in Brooklyn to better manage growing demand for electricity. “Con Ed was going to have to spend over a billion dollars on a new substation,” Kauffman said. “Again, that substation would have about a 54 percent capacity utilization. Instead, Con Ed went out to the market with this problem of load growth, and instead what Con Ed is going to do is spend hundreds of millions of dollars less on distributed energy solutions that include on-site generation, energy efficiency and demand response.” Kauffman also noted that the first set of REV rules have come out and that 11 demonstration projects with
“This is not just about talk. We can point to a record of stuff that we have been doing to bring this vision about.” - Richard Kauffman, state chairman of energy and finance
transmission grid. “I come from the private sector, and I know that there are some people that can be cynical about what government can get done – one or two maybe in this room,” Kauffman said. “But I’d put this agenda of completed items against anything that I saw in my
that’s what some of the lawmakers were concerned about. It’s about building this integrated grid, and that’s the kind of grid that we need to have. So it’s a balance between the strong, central station distribution and transmission backbone, and integrating distributed resources.”
city & state — October April 22,26, 2015 2015
30 years in the private sector before I joined government. We can and we will get things done.” In a state Senate hearing in May, lawmakers said they wanted more concrete details about REV. At the City & State conference, Kauffman asserted that there had been confusion among state legislators over what the initiative was actually aimed at accomplishing. “It’s not just about distributed solutions,” Kauffman said. “I think ARMAN DZIDZOVIC
utilities and other third parties are moving forward, with more to be approved in coming months. He also touted a number of ongoing initiatives that fall under the REV umbrella, including several programs spurring solar power, a state green bank designed to spur private-sector investment in renewable energy, a microgrid competition, and the Energy Highway, which aims to upgrade and expand the state’s aging
GREEN NEW YORK Chairman of Energy and Finance for New York
City & State: What’s the timeline for the pilot projects with the Reforming the Energy Vision initiative, and when might we see that scale up across the system? Richard Kauffman: We’re calling them demonstrations. And the reason we call them demonstrations is because there have been plenty of pilots of new stuff around the electricity system. And so it’s time to move from pilots to implementation. And so these ideas are not tested technologies, but tested business models. And if they work, they can go into broad deployment. So that’s why we’re calling them demonstrations as opposed to pilots. These are underway and like other new businesses, it’s going to take a while for implementation. The interesting point that’s raised by this is that what we’re doing requires change. Change in third parties, change in how utilities operate – that the utility industry needs to develop a culture of innovation. One of the problems with the regulatory structure that we put into place is, let’s face it, we want utilities to be reliable. And of course utilities have to be reliable. We know that. But the question is, have we put in place a culture that’s inimical to innovation because of the concerns of reliability? There are innovative ways to achieve reliability. So the utility industry needs to adopt a culture of innovation, be more permeable to ideas that come in from the outside. And this is a challenge for the utility industry, and it’s also a challenge for third parties. Because third parties, like solar companies as an example, they’ve typically looked at a utility as a kind of an enemy. So part of the cultural change is third parties viewing utilities like customers and partners and utilities viewing third parties as partners and customers. C&S: I also wanted to ask about the state energy plan. A new version of that was introduced recently. RK: And I’m sure everybody has read it! Wait for the movie. C&S: It’s a very aggressive plan. One thing highlighted in it is cit yandstateny.com
really pushing for an expansion of renewable energy. It called for 50 percent of the state’s generation coming from renewables by 2030. How realistic is that, and what does that mean for what some people call the “bridge technologies” like nuclear and coal – do we still need those in the meantime? RK: So the other 50 percent is going to come from conventional sources. We think it’s quite realistic. We’ve done analytical work to support our goals. C&S: Yet the Cuomo administration has even supported some repowering of coal plants. What role do traditional sources like coal and nuclear power play in the interim period? RK: We have some general regulatory complexity between the state and federal government. As you know, the federal government through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is the general regulator of wholesale markets and the state regulatory authority is retail – and retail means the distribution system. And the challenge here is that really made sense in an era where electrons flowed in one direction – from large power plants to us. But in an era where you have more distributed generation and electrons flowing both ways – when I think about this integrated grid, that’s the kind of grid we have to have – I think it poses some regulatory challenges for us. One of the challenges is, under the current rules, there’s no value given for fuel diversity. So we are going to wind up with a system which is more and more dependent on natural gas. If we look in the past, natural gas prices are really volatile. And one of the reasons why nuclear plants are challenged in the state – and they are – is because of low natural gas prices. So there are some market structurerelated issues that we are looking at, but again it would be good to be able to do this in collaboration with FERC and relations with FERC are sometimes quite challenging.
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city & state — October April 22,26, 2015 2015
GREEN NEW YORK
KEVIN PARKER State Senator
city & state — October April 22,26, 2015 2015
City & State: As a member of the Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee, what are your thoughts on how the Renewing Energy Vision has played out so far? Specifically, I know you are really focused on consumer issues and how that would affect the average rate-payer. Kevin Parker: I think this is really a brilliant idea by the governor. I think the way that it’s happening is a little fast for everybody, but this is absolutely what needs to be done. The system is very, very old. We haven’t really looked at how we improve the system, how we bring it up to speed. Particularly in the face of things like Hurricane Sandy and other things that we’ve experienced on an energy front. Even looking at the example of what happened in Japan, after the tsunami. We have to look at how we in fact both deliver the commodity, how the industry is being directed, as well as how consumers are being impacted. I think a really big issue for all of us – and I think everybody here will agree – is that we in the state of New York must be really committed to moving off of fossil fuels and moving into sustainable energy. And that really is a huge goal and I think that one of the things that’s so great about REV is that, in fact, it is actually driving that process. Not simply just saying, “let’s modernize it,” but “let’s push it in a specific direction.” And particularly because now the Public Service Commission is requiring the utilities to partner and look at projects around sustainable energy and renewable energies. And that’s going to be really critical. And I think they’re also looking at a rate for low-income New Yorkers that I think is going to be important, and how you implement that is going to be critical over time. Those are the things that I think are more important than others. There’s other reasons why, but those things are really, really important in how we go forward with our energy future.
C&S: Everyone from the president down to you has been talking about the “green collar economy.” But on the flip side, there are traditional jobs that could be lost if we phase out nuclear and coal. What are the pros and cons when it comes to jobs when it comes to this kind of initiative? KP: Well first of all, I think that nuclear is going to be around a lot longer. So when people talk about “phasing out” nuclear, I don’t think that that’s part of it. Especially when you talk about plants like Indian Point, which are 20 percent not of New York state’s energy, but of the region’s energy, you don’t replace that overnight. And so I think that we need some better conversations about how we’re going to deal with that over time and today’s not the time. When we talk about a full-time job at a living wage with benefits, I think the green collar economy is the next, best opportunity to produce those jobs for New Yorkers. And particularly for black and Latino New Yorkers who have been for the most part the ones X’ed out of the jobs recovery that we’ve seen in this country since 2008 or 2009. I’m actually one of the people who helped author the green collar jobs legislation here in the state of New York that uses several millions of dollars from RGGI, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, to in fact retrofit houses and do that kind of work. But when you’re talking about producing these jobs, I think what we’re going to see – just like we’re trying to modernize the grid in REV – we also need to modernize our workforce. In other words, as the technology changes, as the industry changes, so do the jobs. And so I think for unions this is a very exciting opportunity for them. Because it’s not like they’re going to be losing jobs, they’re actually going to be gaining jobs, and they’re going to have to be doing some retraining of some parts of the workforce. And so I think it’s an opportunity for everybody to be involved in this.
TOM O’MARA Chairman, State Senate Environmental Conservation Committee
City & State: What is your No. 1 environmental priority during the 2016 session? Tom O’Mara: I think the No. 1 priority is to get resolution on this microbeads issue. I was disappointed that we weren’t able to come to a reconciliation of that by the close of session last year, so I’m hopeful we can get some resolution on that in the upcoming session. I’d like to see the new DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos get involved in that process. Another priority is certainly getting a new commissioner in and getting up to speed what the commissioner’s priorities are going to be with Basil coming on. I’ve dealt with him a little bit over the last couple years, and I look forward to going through the confirmation process, hopefully sooner rather than later. Another piece of legislation that we passed in the Senate last year that I’d like to see get some traction in the Assembly is the Paint Stewardship legislation to account for recycling of unused paint from a variety of sources. C&S: As New York moves toward cleaner energy, what green technology do you find most promising? TO: My priorities are to have a wellbalanced approach. I think the focus right now is on solar and I think that needs to be a good component of a balanced energy program. It’s certainly been a focus of the governor and his administration and that really accounts for the smallest percentage of electricity resources from the renewables at this point. It probably has the most growth potential at this point. We’ve seen the recurring difficulties with the siting of wind farms and right now the solar is focusing on smaller applications and I’m hopeful we don’t see the kind of opposition that we see to wind farms when it comes to siting a large-scale solar farm. C&S: There has been a lot of debate over the Indian Point nuclear power plant and whether it should be shut down. Where do you stand on the issue? TO: My philosophy is a balanced
approach. Certainly reducing emissions is a good goal, regardless of what your beliefs are on climate change or greenhouse gas emissions. I think the less that is emitted is better for the environment. That’s one of the concerns I have with nuclear, right now. That’s completely emission-free other than the spent rods, and we need to put more effort into the disposal of spent rods, but the threat of closure of nuclear plants at Indian Point and the FitzPatrick plant in Oswego, those are – first of all – huge hits to the local economies and the tax base, but it’s also a huge hit to our goal of reducing emissions. These major power plants that need to be ready and available for capacity when wind or solar may not be performing at optimal levels, we need to have this large-scale generating capacity available. C&S: Oct. 27 is the last day for the gas industry to legally challenge the state’s ban on hydraulic fracturing. Do you believe the fracking issue will be revisited? TO: I don’t know at this point what the industry is looking at doing. I haven’t had contact with any of the pro-natural gas industry and whether there is any challenge being put together on this. I continue to believe at some point in the future that natural gas will be a resource that we find is a way to access here in New York state. I don’t believe we can be the only state to get it right and all the rest of the states are wrong. I think we need to take a reasonable and safe approach to exploring this and I’m hopeful someday we get there. Obviously this is a very big issue in my area of the state and a lot of my constituents feel very slighted by the governor’s actions on disallowing pursuing natural gas of the Marcellus Shale. But there’s many areas in my district, particularly around the Finger Lakes and Ithaca, that are very much opposed to it. It’s not a cut-and-dry issue here, either. I’ve been a proponent of very strong oversight and regulation of the industry so that if it’s done, it has to be done in a responsible way. cit yandstateny.com
GREEN NEW YORK GIL QUINIONES
EPA Regional Administrator
Commissioner, New York Power Authority
City & State: New York’s new energy plan calls for half of the state’s power to come from renewable sources by 2030. How important is this? How realistic? Judith Enck: The EPA supports strong commitments to boost renewable energy production and energy efficiency. New York’s commitment is consistent with the final Clean Power Plan announced by President Barack Obama and the EPA. When the Clean Power Plan is fully in place in 2030, carbon pollution from the power sector will be 32 percent below 2005 levels – or 870 million tons less carbon pollution – securing progress and making sure it continues. New investments in renewable sources of power will help the state meet and exceed the goals of the Clean Power Plan. C&S: Some environmentalists have criticized the state for supporting the repowering of coal-fired power plants and taking funds from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. JE: The EPA encourages the state to invest in pioneering energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. It is up to the state to decide how to spend Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative funds. C&S: Overall, how is New York doing on the environmental front? JE: New York has made strong commitments to environmental protection but more work needs to be done. Most major bodies of water have health advisories in place, warning people not to eat various fish species that are contaminated by a range of toxins. About $20 billion in new investments is needed to upgrade drinking water and sewage treatment plants. Wetlands need to be protected so they can cit yandstateny.com
help prevent flooding during severe weather events. Air quality in the New York City metro area continues not to meet air quality standards. Thousands of toxic sites need to be cleaned up and we need to achieve higher recycling and composting rates. That said, New York has a talented workforce of environmental professionals at the Department of Environmental Conservation and other agencies to protect public health and the environment. C&S: Environmentalists are also calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Environmental Protection Agency to require General Electric to do more to clean up the Hudson River. What, if anything, can or should be done? JE: EPA’s Hudson River PCB Superfund dredging project has been a success. The $2 billion dredging project removed more than 2.75 million cubic yards of PCB-contaminated sediment from the Hudson River. About 310,000 pounds of PCBs were removed from the river. The project was completed in less time than expected with less secondary impacts than predicted. This project is the most extensive dredging project undertaken in the nation, and it will help restore the Hudson River. It was also a success for the local economy – providing about 500 jobs at its peak. Other state and federal agencies that serve as natural resource trustees have been working for many years on a legal claim to address damages suffered as a result of the pollution released into the Hudson River. Additional dredging could possibly be part of a resolution of those claims. The EPA is supportive of such an undertaking, and has offered to share the years of technical expertise and experience it has gained during this project.
City & State: We’ve been hearing for years now about brain drain in New York state, especially around big SUNY schools like University at Buffalo and University at Albany. What can NYPA do to get more young people interested in the field? Gil Quiniones: We have programs like the Herkimer County Community College program, the Troops to Energy Jobs program and the Workforce Development Center in east Buffalo preparing the next generation of energy workers. We’re in good shape despite the retirement bubble. In fact, about 38 percent of our workers have been with NYPA less than five years. That churn is starting to happen. We have a very structured succession planning and internal training knowledge management program. This has been going on for the last decade. We’ve been anticipating this so we’ve planned for this ahead of time. C&S: Where do you see the state going in terms of energy sources? GQ: New York is on the right track and in a good position right now. We are rapidly installing clean energy technology across the state. We have increased solar growth more than 300 percent from 2011 to 2014, which is twice the rate of U.S. solar growth overall. In addition, we have a program like K-Solar, we have standardized the steps and streamlined the process on how a school can obtain solar panels and solar energy from prequalified private providers. You’re going to see more and more of that in NYPA’s activity. C&S: With goals in Cuomo’s energy plan extending out to the year 2030, beyond his administration even if he runs for and is elected to another term, what can NYPA do to ensure that New York will be using 50 percent renewable energy by that year? GQ: I would point you to the NYPA 2020 plan, because that sets forth a
trajectory that is consistent to the state energy goals of 40 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, 50 percent generation of energy from renewable sources and 23 percent reduction in consumption or energy efficiency. Our role, really, when you look at that strategic vision document, is to modernize our generation and transmission facilities so that they can be flexible and that renewable energy sources can be integrated effectively and efficiently onto our grid, that they’re resilient, that they’re connected and smart. My prediction is that the investments and the technology choices we will make over the next five to 10 years really will determine what NYPA will look like over the next 40 to 50 years. C&S: One constant topic of debate, especially around the Niagara Power Project, is NYPA’s distribution of power to New York City and other states from its hydropower plants upstate. This, however, is largely governed by state and federal law. What has been done and what can be done to bring down costs for people living near those energy sources? GQ: I think the first thing to point out is that about half of the Niagara Power Project’s output stays in Western New York with one-third of the plant’s generation tied directly to economic development programs for use by businesses and industries that are within the 30-mile radius of the power plant and nearby Chautauqua County. It’s linked to tens of thousands of jobs, retention and sometimes creation of jobs in the area. In addition, for the portion of power that is not being utilized or allocated in that region, NYPA sets aside the revenue from the sale of that power into the market to be used for economic development funding. The rest is designated by legislation, both federal and state, and it’s not really in NYPA’s control.
city & state — October April 22,26, 2015 2015
DE BLASIO’S BIG CLINTON MISCALCULATION
By NICK POWELL
city & state — October 26, 2015
If politicians view their presidential endorsements as currency, then the value of Bill de Blasio’s endorsement is dropping as precipitously as the euro. To be sure, the value of any big-name endorsement during campaign cycles has always been debatable. Political scientists tend to agree that these endorsements don’t do much for a candidate in terms of moving votes, but can be effective as a stamp of legitimacy. As a former political operative, de Blasio understands this reality better than most. After all, the mayor won the 2013 election with hardly any star political supporters (no, Alec Baldwin and Cynthia Nixon don’t count) – a testament to a campaign that seized on an income inequality narrative that resonated with voters, but also benefited from the blunders of his Democratic rivals and paltry voter turnout. Now a national kingmaker, at least in his own mind, de Blasio appears content to wring every last drop of importance out of his pending presidential endorsement. What began as an arguably shrewd political calculation to withhold his support for Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton (whose 2000 Senate campaign de Blasio managed) until she demonstrated support for an income inequality agenda, has instead turned into a complete farce.
The mayor’s tap dance around the Clinton endorsement has become the political equivalent of Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown. Since his initial non-endorsement in April, de Blasio has been asked at least a half-dozen times by local and national media when he plans to lend his support. Over that time, de Blasio’s answer has morphed from, “It’s time to see a clear, bold vision for progressive economic change,” to a familiar refrain most recently heard on CNBC’s “Squawk Box”: “I’ve been very impressed by what Hillary Clinton’s put out. And I’ve said this, I think with each passing week, she has added to her vision in a compelling manner. And I give her a lot of credit for that. There’s still a few areas where I think we have to fill in the blanks and get a better sense of where things are going.”
The calculus behind de Blasio’s non-endorsement is not quite as simple as waiting to hear dovetailing rhetoric from Clinton on progressive values. While the mayor has several major legislative accomplishments here in New York City to boast of – universal pre-K, paid sick leave, municipal IDs for immigrants living here illegally – he is clearly preoccupied by his standing nationally and abroad. When the news broke two weeks ago that de Blasio intended to host a Democratic presidential forum in Iowa – 1,000 miles away from New York City – political observers were hardly surprised. This is the same mayor who has made four trips to Europe in the past 20 months and recently visited Israel, but has conducted only one town hall in the city he runs. In fact, it’s quite possible that the Iowa forum and subsequent national exposure – which has no date,
venue or commitment from any of the Democratic candidates – is the reason behind de Blasio’s hesitation to endorse a candidate. “I really think he wants this forum on income equality, and if he is partisan he won’t get a forum,” said George Arzt, a political consultant and former press secretary to Mayor Ed Koch. “I don’t know what he is aiming for with his maneuvering, but the Hillary folks could not be happy with him. He should take Tip O’Neill’s adage to heart – ‘All politics is local’ – and keep an eye on delivering services to his base rather than be a captive of his national ambitions.” It’s hardly a novel concept for a New York mayor or governor to keep one eye trained on the White House. Seemingly every governor and mayor of the last 30 years not scarred by scandal (sorry, Govs. Spitzer and Paterson) flirted with a presidential
run. But sifting through those egos and personalities of New York’s past, there were those whose political star rose organically, and those who elevated themselves out of delusions of grandeur. The late Mario Cuomo famously dipped his feet in the presidential campaign waters several times, but the speculation came on the heels of his iconic 1984 keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention, and after having helped move the state toward economic prosperity after the fiscal quagmire of the late 1970s. Cuomo deftly balanced his national ambitions with his borderline compulsive need to attend to matters at home. He endorsed the 1984 Democratic presidential candidate Walter Mondale early in the campaign, setting the stage for his keynote speech, and while no one would have begrudged Cuomo seizing on his newfound national stardom to launch his own campaign in 1988, he instead used his clout to host Democratic presidential forums – in New York – to allow voters in his home state an opportunity to engage the candidates. “(Cuomo) would set up the forums and observe, and various people thinking about running for president could come to New York to court his favor,” said Bill Cunningham, a political consultant who helped organize one of the forums as a member of the state Democratic Committee. “Maybe Mayor de Blasio remembers that things like this have happened before, but they’re usually done with a little bit more public planning and forethought.” Cunningham believes that de Blasio may have overplayed his hand by dangling his endorsement of Clinton before getting his Iowa forum set in stone. For one thing, if Clinton and Bernie Sanders, the two major Democratic candidates, do not agree to attend, de Blasio could be left with egg (or corn) on his face, damaging his national brand. There is also a cit yandstateny.com
political risk if the mayor intends to use the forum as a barometer for his endorsement. “If (Clinton) has a bad showing (in Iowa), his endorsement becomes worthless. If she has a great showing, his endorsement is devalued because she doesn’t really need it,” Cunningham said. “It will be whatever comes out of the event itself.” There are also whispers that de Blasio views his Clinton (or Sanders) endorsement as a purely transactional play to angle for a new job. Twenty months into his mayoralty, it’s clear that de Blasio has little appetite for being a manager, so perhaps he sees the Democratic National Committee (or a Cabinet post) as a pathway out of City Hall to a truly national platform. As DNC chairman or a member of a Clinton/Sanders Cabinet, he would be freed from the mundane details of managing a major city and could spread his progressive gospel or effect change with a national scope. Of course, there’s always the issue of precedent – no sitting mayor has ever become DNC chairperson, and current Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx was the first sitting mayor in over 30 years to take a cabinet position. And for a mayor of arguably the most important city in the world to give up that perch and political bullhorn that comes with it would be unheard of. “There is no mayor except for John Hoffman who went on to higher office, and Boss Tweed wanted to get him out of New York City with plenty of ‘repeater’ voters,” Arzt said. “The road to higher office is to deliver for your constituents. Nothing short of that works.”
Nick Powell is City & State’s opinion editor. Email him at NPowell@ cityandstateny.com or find him on Twitter: @nickpowellbkny
Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently called for raising New York’s minimum wage to $15, which, if enacted, would be the highest statewide minimum wage in the country. “It’s wrong to have any economy where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, where the American dream of mobility and opportunity has become more of a cruel myth,” Cuomo declared in announcing the plan. Indeed, at a time when workers throughout the country have been plagued by stagnant wages, the “Fight for $15” is a worthy battle that deserves all of our support. But it isn’t a fair fight unless all workers benefit. And sadly, at least 20,000 state workers and other public service workers would be excluded from this proposal, including many employed by the City University of New York, where thousands of working men and women earn less than $15 per hour. (In a cruel twist that adds insult to injury, these same employees have been working without a contract since 2008.) They deserve the same shot at economic fairness as the rest of the New York state workforce. Custodial Assistant Rory Satchell, for example, a CUNY employee who earns $10.99 per hour, has gone years without a raise and says that on some days he has to miss meals to get by. There is no denying that for some time now across the country, the economic deck of cards has been stacked. A report by the Economic Policy Institute found that, even as
labor productivity has improved steadily since 2000, the benefits have nearly all gone to companies and top executives, rather than rank-and-file employees. In New York City, the issue of economic inequality rears its ugly head everywhere, from real estate listings to the social pages of our newspapers. Practically all of the economic gains in the recovery from the Great Recession have gone to the top 1 percent of the population. Connect the dots: As luxury apartment buildings rise from the Battery to Harlem in Manhattan, as rents soar in Brooklyn and Queens, tabloid headlines scream about more homeless on the streets. Clearly, solely raising the minimum wage will not solve the problems of inequality. But thanks to Cuomo, we now have the opportunity to set a benchmark for the rest of the country. “If you work full time, you shouldn’t have to live in poverty – plain and simple,” he has said. The governor can add considerable weight to those words by ensuring that his proposal covers everyone in New York state. As we move forward to raise the minimum wage of hardworking New Yorkers, we should not leave anyone behind.
Henry Garrido is the executive director of DC 37, New York City’s largest public-sector union.
city & state — October 26, 2015
KEVIN P. COUGHLIN / OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR
NEW YORK CITY MAYOR’S OFFICE
STATE WORKERS SUCKER-PUNCHED IN FIGHT FOR $15
REGIONAL BANKS ARE THE ONLY WAY TO SAVE NEW YORK BRYN PHILLIPS
city & state — October 26, 2015
34 As Gov. Andrew Cuomo ponders more economic development spending, two truths about the Great Recession have been revealed. The first truth New Yorkers must grasp is that they were overdependent on financial capital as an engine of growth in their economy. When the financial crisis erupted, the state economy was left naked in the storm because it was too reliant on the financial services industry to generate growth. In 2007, the banks invested less than $50 billion in New York’s manufacturing sector but an eye-popping $800 billion in risky mortgages, loans and other financial products. This dependence on finance capital generated significant volatility in the growth model, which exploded with catastrophic results in 2008 and required a colossal transfer of money from the poor to the rich. Taxpayers bailed out the banks to the tune of $700 billion, yet the “great refusal” of the banks to lend continued unchallenged. As a result, the upstate regions, deprived of capital, were stripped of jobs, which consequently led to population decline – establishing a vicious cycle of ever-decreasing
circles. The state ended up bailing out both the banks and the communities, which had been decimated by the recklessness of the money managers. Recent Chinese market tremors only serve to reinforce the fact that history repeats itself. Sorry New York, but you are not yet out of the danger zone. The second truth is that there was very weak private-sector growth outside of real estate and finance. This led to an economic strategy predicated on debt – made all the more risky by its exposure to the giant roulette wheel on Wall Street, which was, at that very moment, violently spinning off its axis. There can be no way out of the quagmire New York has sunk into unless it reacquaints itself with the problems of finance capital, and develops a new private sector-led growth strategy to address the failures of the debt-driven economy. A stimulus package conceived without embedding investment within a strategic plan that leads to the creation of new institutions, however, presents a similar problem. As the civic economists of the Catholic Church would say, “you are generating debt, not value.” In a sense, it is the economic equivalent of smoking crack.
What happens when the high – the stimulus – wears off? You crash, you burn, and then you need more candy. Therein lies the main problem with the Neo-Keynesianism preached by economists such as Paul Krugman. The concept of public spending in times of crisis is so ancient it traces its origins back to Solon of Athens. But why should the role of banker be assigned to the treasury? The lack of capital in the regions requires not simply that the state turn on the “air conditioner” to temporarily lower the fiscal temperature, but rather the endowment of new and innovative financial institutions capable of building long-term reciprocal relationships with local companies and workers and addressing their specific needs. A good place to begin is the lack of availability of capital for small and medium-sized business growth in the regions. This gets to the heart of the matter as regards the changes New York needs to make. Financial investment always offers higher rates of return than “real” economies, which are long-term, more embedded things, because the value added is nominal and unconnected to genuine improvements in productivity. Leading up to the crash, the demand for “best value” only made things worse as New York’s assets were sucked into Wall Street where the returns were undeniably better. And yet, it turned out that what was being offered was a three card trick; there is no infinite maximumreturns economy that involves neither real productivity improvements nor real labor. One solution to this conundrum is the concept of regional banks that would be prohibited from lending outside of their area – making capital available locally to businesses and households, countering the Wall Street effect of sucking all surplus to speculation, and engaging in the urgent task of generating privatesector growth in the areas that need it most: the “faraway towns” of Buffalo, Binghamton and Rochester. Jazz musician Charles Mingus believed that “freedom comes from structure.” This
musical value should now be applied to the economy. Europe exports many things to America. We could go further. In 2008 it transpired that Germany was Europe’s most productive, resilient economy. In Germany, regional banks that are constrained to lend within particular areas are a necessary part of the social ecology in that they resist the centralizing power of capital, allow more secure access to credit for local and small businesses and constrain the destructive demand for maximum return on investment. They also offer an alternative to usurious payday lending, one of the central growth areas in their economy. If Cuomo is serious about generating sustainable private-sector growth, he must be vigilant about keeping finance capital within institutional constraints. A good place to begin would be to commit 10 percent of the Upstate Revitalization Initiative funding to the endowment of a network of regional banks like these, constrained to lend within particular places. These should be tied to the Regional Economic Development Councils the governor established in 2011. When Pope Francis recently visited New York, he scolded Wall Street for “subjecting people to mechanisms which generate greater poverty, exclusion and dependence.” New York cannot escape that truth. Any serious reflection on reviving the upstate economies must confront the centralizing tendency of capital and seek to constrain and preserve it while renewing traditions of value and virtue within the economy. Throwing good money after bad is not a solution. That is why the endowment of a network of new regional banks is New York’s only credible route out of the snake pit of “exclusion and dependence.” These are the lessons of the crash.
Bryn Phillips is an adviser to a Labour Party member of the United Kingdom’s House of Lords and a writer for New Statesman.
UBER: IT’S NOT GOING TO REGULATE ITSELF ... AVIK KABESSA
Commissioner Loree Sutton, Mayor’s Office of Veteran’s Affairs
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city & state — October 26, 2015
Reach elected officials Educate NY’s most engaged leaders Raise awareness and shape legislation
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Avik Kabessa is a founding member of the Livery Roundtable; board member of the Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association; and chairman of the New York State Independent Livery Driver Benefit Fund.
Senator Jeff Klein
Commisioner Ken Adams
The New York state Assembly recently held a series of closed-door roundtable discussions on a bill – introduced by Assemblyman Kevin Cahill and state Sen. James Seward – that would designate companies that provide for-hire transportation using non-commercial private vehicles, like Uber, as “transportation network companies.” The bill seeks to create quasi-part-time commercial insurance for people using their personal vehicle, but would also create two different sets of safety regulations in the process. The Legislature must consider if any company providing transportation to paying customers should adhere to a specific set of rules. The type of car – or taxi – a customer rides in, or how they booked the ride, should not matter. After all, there is no difference in the service provided by companies like Uber, taxis or other car services. The facts are these: All of these services take people from point A to point B for money; drivers work for themselves; and passengers can use an app to book a ride from almost any company. On the other hand, besides the insurance issue, there is a significant difference between the safety rules that would apply to proposed transportation network companies and those the rest of the car service and taxi industry must follow. Unlike these companies, car service and taxi drivers must carry a chauffeur license
and must go through background checks and fingerprinting. Car service companies and taxis also have meters that are regulated and rates that are controlled, and must undergo more regular inspections. And, perhaps most importantly, unlike proposed transportation network companies, taxi and car services must carry a license issued by a regulatory agency that can be suspended or even revoked if the companies do not adhere to these rules. Thus, when it comes to safety, unlike for taxi and car service companies, the proposed bill would allow Uber, Lyft and other transportation network companies to self-regulate. Consider this analogy: Every restaurant that delivers food to your home is overseen by the Department of Health for food safety. If an online food delivery app starts offering home delivery, should it be regulated? Should it have to follow the same food safety rules that apply to everyone else? Should the facility where it prepares its food be inspected like any other commercial kitchen? Should we only care whether or not they have insurance? Right now, in New York state, companies like Uber seeking to be designated as a transportation network company are allowed to provide service under rules that govern the rest of the ground transportation sector. Therefore, there is really no need to create this new classification. If legislators believe safety rules no longer apply to transportation, they should strike them from the entire ground transportation sector. If legislators believe safety rules must apply but wish to allow for part-time insurance this bill offers, they should simply enable the use of part-time insurance for the entire industry. Creating two sets of rules governing the same identical service simply makes no sense.
DEMOCRATIC DEBATE DEBRIEF CAME FOR THE CLINTON, STAYED FOR THE BERNIE
city & state — October 26, 2015
At the first Democratic presidential debate, a cranky, septuagenarian, slightly deaf socialist owned the stage. Clutching the podium, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont railed against the ills of capitalism while explaining the concept of democratic socialism to the roughly 9.2 million Americans who tuned in. More than a decade after Republicans savaged John Kerry for speaking French, Sanders unabashedly praised Denmark and Sweden for providing universal health care, paid leave and free education for all. And he did so in that unmistakable Brooklyn accent, unvarnished even after his 30 years in Vermont politics as a mayor, congressman and senator. I half expect to see Sanders on the subway tomorrow, reading the Daily News and wearing a Mets cap. He is who he is, and there is no question that he means what he says. And therein lies his appeal. Unlike the bumbling Lincoln Chafee or the wooden Jim Webb, Sanders cannot be easily dismissed. He is literally calling for a political revolution, one that actually makes sense. His rival Martin O’Malley has many of the same ideas, but lacks Bernie’s ability to raise fire and brimstone. O’Malley is Sanders’ angel-faced foil, but so far Democratic voters seem to prefer the latter’s scruffy, blunt-force liberalism to the former’s silver-tongued polish. I watched the debate at a party organized by the Hillary Clinton campaign. Although the audience initially booed Bernie, they were
soon cheering him on in spite of themselves. Hillary delivered a strong performance, deflecting weak attacks from O’Malley and outright ignoring Chafee, who, despite having close to zero name recognition, chose to repeatedly remind the audience that he’s never been involved in a scandal. Sanders rendered Chafee’s potshots moot in the biggest moment of the debate when, after Clinton was berated for her email debacle, he defended her: “This may not be good politics … but Americans are sick of hearing about your damn emails!” he cried, as a raucous ovation ensued. Hillary shook his hand, and proceeded to hammer Republicans on abortion, make a bold case for paid family leave and demonstrate her mind-bending fluency in all things policy. As I headed home in a cab later that night, I struck up a conversation with my driver, Mr. Moy, who had been listening intently to the debate. He likes Bernie, but doesn’t think he’s a realistic candidate. He’s loved Hillary ever since she said, “It takes a village to raise a child.” “To me, that means that in order to govern a country you should be able to govern your own family,” he explained. Of course, Mr. Moy isn’t necessarily even voting in the primary. “I vote in the end,” he said. “I don’t want to reveal myself. I may change.”
Alexis Grenell (@agrenell on Twitter) is a Democratic communications strategist based in New York. She handles nonprofit and political clients.
SHE DIDN’T CRACK, HE WASN’T A CRACKPOT
“We’re not Denmark,” remarked Hillary Clinton as she went nativist in a swipe at European socialism and her Democratic presidential rival, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, America’s only elected democratic socialist. That dig was one of several cutting remarks meant to separate Clinton from the socialist Brooklyn native hot on her heels. During the first Democratic presidential debate, Sanders fired back at Clinton’s coziness with Wall Street, saying he “believes in a system where all people do well.” All night they (and the three lackluster Democrats they shared the stage with) tussled on income inequality, gun control, tax cuts, criminal justice reform, climate change and Glass-Steagall. Both Clinton and Sanders were winners Tuesday night, because she didn’t crack and he didn’t come across as a crackpot. The other good news for Hillary is that she put the #DraftBiden movement to bed with her strong performance. Sanders aided Clinton by failing to take her legs out on Wall Street, the Iraq War, income inequality and her email controversy. It appeared that the debate was his to lose. In an attempt to burnish her leftist credentials, Clinton had a moment during the debate that must have sent chills down the back of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who fancies himself the face of the progressive movement. When asked if she labeled herself as a progressive or a moderate, Clinton channeled de Blasio’s rival, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, saying, “I’m
a progressive, but a progressive who likes to get things done.” Shots fired, Bill and Bernie! Although the income gap is greater today than in 1933, Sanders missed an opportunity to tie Clinton to the people (Wall Street and big banks) and policies (deregulation in the financial sector) that have tilted the scales against working-class men and women. Hillary parried Sanders’ awkward income inequality thrusts with her deft counter on the gun-control issue to knock Sanders while he was flatfooted. Clinton looked visibly relieved when the round on Wall Street and big banks ended. I had to admire the way she smoothly pivoted to climate change. But had the topic gone on another few minutes, she would have pulled the “grandma” card. She adeptly pulled the “woman” card more than once in response to Anderson Cooper’s questions. At one point she declared that women were the ultimate outsiders. In contrast, Sanders fully embraced his outsider status. When asked if he was a socialist, he didn’t say he was a “Franklin Roosevelt New Dealer.” I give him points for his ideological honesty. His stance is a rarity in politics today (outside of the tea party faithful). I’m very annoyed that criminal justice reform has become THE racial justice issue. If you listen to the presidential candidates you’d believe that racism is only defined by police brutality and mass incarceration. Only Sanders said, “We need to combat institutional racism from top to bottom.” But while he understands institutional racism as the problem, he believes resolving income inequality is the cure-all. Hillary, on the other hand, infantilizes racism and inequality by constantly championing the need to “do more about the lives of children.” In reality, if you improve the lives of black adults, the lives of black children will improve as well. Scots-Irish champion Jim Webb’s only real moment occurred when he expressed support for affirmative action for African-Americans based cit yandstateny.com
October 12, 2015
Former Assemblyman Michael Benjamin (@SquarePegDem on Twitter) represented the Bronx for eight years.
The following letter is a response to an opinion article by University of California, Berkeley professor Bruce Fuller, “The limits and lessons of de Blasio’s universal pre-K program,” in which Fuller details where Mayor Bill de Blasio’s prekindergarten program is not necessarily targeting the communities it intended to. The piece ran online Oct. 1 and can be found in the opinion section of our Oct. 12 issue. Well, the constraints in rolling out pre-K could easily have been predicted by most pre-K operators in the city. The benefits of pre-K, while substantial, pale in comparison to other social factors in combatting poverty. But let’s not go there for a second – pre-K is useful to middle-class families who have to work! Still, I cannot figure out why so much attention is placed on the mayor’s pre-K program. The expansion of middle school and after-school programs have given tens of thousands of our most vulnerable youth a great experience and installed what is essential to educating and socializing our young people. They are now engaged in sports, theater, arts, math, science and other great topics every day after school. Congratulations, Bill de Blasio!
The following letter is a response to an opinion article by DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido, “State workers sucker-punched in Fight for $15 proposal,” in which Garrido urges Gov. Andrew Cuomo to include public employees in any legislative push to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour. The piece ran online on Oct. 19 and also appears in this issue.
The following letter is a response to an article by Frank Runyeon, “Doctor to sue HHC after he was fired for testing for Legionella outbreak in patients’ homes,” detailing how an infectious diseases specialist was fired for violating patient privacy laws for testing drinking water in people’s homes. The article ran online on Oct. 9.
What a hypocrite Cuomo is, basking in the glory of having raised the minimum wage to $15 for some workers as if that makes him a bona fide friend of labor, while starving multiple CUNY unions at the same time. Talk about a guy who talks out of both sides of his mouth. I agree that nobody who works full time should have to live in poverty. You know what New York’s greatest engine for economic mobility is? It’s public universities, particularly CUNY. But the longer he jerks CUNY around, the more the quality of a CUNY education will suffer and the harder it will be to get one. Cuomo is nothing but a buddy to the wealthy, using fast food workers as a human shield to hide behind.
Any epidemiologist not employed by the city’s health department would find the department’s reasoning laughably absurd. So, is it stupidity or laziness? City unwillingness to spend some of its $78 billion annual budget on actually protecting the public? Nervousness about putting property owners and the banks at risk? All of the above? I’m sure Ian Michaels, the PPL (paid professional liar) at the health department also still refuses to return phone calls of journalism students who work in university news bureaus around town. Only the Daily News has followed the firing. The New York Times (motto: “If it happened in Kabul, it’s news to us’) has yet to weigh in.
– Tracey Harden, on www.cityandstateny.com
- Anonymous, on www.cityandstateny.com
–Bob Townley, on www.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.
city & state — October 26, 2015
on their history of being discriminated against coupled with the “need to elevate the economic hardships of Appalachian whites” – drawing on his background. But Anderson Cooper was so self-absorbed, and largely dismissive of Webb, that he missed an opportunity to follow up on an unscripted moment. Cooper’s performance was disappointing. He set my hair on fire when he called on his AfricanAmerican colleague Don Lemon to ask the obligatory #BlackLivesMatter question. From his haughty Vanderbilt perch, Cooper called on the Latino correspondent Juan Carlos Lopez to ask the immigration question. As if to achieve a warped trifecta, Dana Bash obligingly asked Clinton about expanding family leave. Later, in a fit of pique, I tweeted, “Shouldn’t CNN’s token (yes, double entendre) stoner have asked the medical marijuana question?” My final debate takeaway: “Free the drug dealers and thugs. Jail the bankers and Edward Snowden.” Webb, Martin O’Malley and Lincoln Chafee did little to prove that they are worthy competitors. O’Malley tried hard but missed the opportunity to become Joe Biden Lite; he only stood out to me because his voice sounds a lot like former Gov. George Pataki. Hillary’s Denmark diss stuck in my craw because all four of my grandparents were born under the Danish flag in the Virgin Islands. Thankfully for Clinton, the DanishAmerican vote is probably too tiny to matter as her march to the Democratic nomination in 2016 continues.
BACK & FORTH
WORLDWIDE WISDOM Very few foreign leaders become
city & state — October 26, 2015
household names over a three-year period, but former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard is one of the few to hold that distinction. Gillard served as prime minister and leader of the Australian Labor Party from 2010 to 2013, the only woman to have held both positions. During her time as prime minister she engaged in several legislative battles that mirror current hot-button issues in U.S. politics, including climate change, immigration and women’s rights. Gillard sat down with City & State’s Nick Powell to discuss environmental issues, her post-government career with Ducere – an Australian online education provider – and how she would frame the debate around gun control in this country. The following is an edited transcript. City & State: I wanted to talk about your current position at Ducere. Why did you think Ducere was the perfect fit for your postgovernment career? Julia Gillard: The continuing thread of my life when I look back on it now – politics and the years before politics – has been this fascination with education and how it’s the foundation stone of opportunity. So for me, postpolitics, Ducere seemed a very natural fit because what Ducere is trying to do is bring business education – the ability to start your own business, to have expertise in marketing and management and business administration – to people in a really affordable way. We’ve got a unique model, a global faculty, more than 250 world leaders, Nobel Prize winners, business identities, who are actually delivering the course content, which people do online. But we also have close partnerships with industries, so people get to go and solve very practical problems. C&S: You said you have global partnerships. How do you determine where around the world to target these partnerships? JG: It’s really a horses-for-courses kind of thing. Here in the U.S. market,
controversial issue when I was prime minister than this issue. The incoming conservative government did repeal the legislation that priced carbon. Since then, prime ministership has changed and interestingly the new prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, has across his political career been personally committed to pricing carbon, but now seems to have adopted the broad philosophy of his political party, which is still opposed to pricing carbon.
A Q&A WITH
JULIA GILLARD where I think Australia is viewed so fondly and favorably, it made sense to offer our Australian qualifications, because I think employers will look at something like a University of Canberra degree – it’s from our national capital, our Washington equivalent – and they will say, “Well, that’s a good quality qualification to have.” In other parts of the world we will do partnerships with universities and then a lot of what we do has a philanthropic side. There is the Ducere I just described to you, but that Ducere goes to support philanthropic work in Africa, where we’re trying to bring the benefit of a better education to Africa, more learning materials. We’re a big publisher of books for African school students. And we also at the time want to offer our Bachelor of Entrepreneurship on a philanthropic basis into Africa, because so many of the nations there are suffering because their real economy needs to grow. And so the more people who have the skills of entrepreneurship, the bigger difference they’ll be able to make. C&S: I want to shift gears a little bit and talk about one of the
pieces of legislation you passed as prime minister. The carbon tax is something that I took a keen interest in, mainly because I don’t think it has any prayer of even getting a vote in the kind of political climate in our Congress right now. Was that a difficult case to make when you were trying to get that passed? JG: Yes, hugely difficult. Our politics on this does mirror yours. There are always similarities between U.S. and Australia politics, and there are some differences. On this we followed, I would say unfortunately, the kind of hyper-partisanship that there’s been in the U.S. debate. In our conservative side of politics, there is quite a number of people who are simply deniers of the science. Then there are others who pay some lip service to the science, but pretend that we are going to be able to get ongoing emissions reduction in some other way, other than putting a price on carbon. Even though all of the world’s statist economists would tell you pricing something like carbon is the best way of reducing it. So this has been a hugely fraught political debate. There was probably no more
C&S: I wanted to ask you about Australia’s gun control laws, which are globally hailed as some of the toughest. We obviously are on the heels of a national tragedy with a mass shooting in Oregon. When tragedies like this happen, it tends to be very politicized, you hear people calling for gun control. That usually falls short of any actual concrete legislation. How would you frame the debate about gun control, if you were making a case for tougher gun laws, not just here, but in Australia? JG: I would simply say our experience shows that it works. It’s not perfect. It would be naive to say no one has been killed by a gun in Australia since we adopted our laws. Indeed, quite recently, a radicalized young man shot a police officer, but those incidents are rare in Australia. We have not had a mass casualty shooting event since we adopted these rigorous gun laws, and they are very rigorous. I would simply say in the U.S., the evidence it seems to me is in, and the evidence is that it cuts gun crime and it cuts the number of people who die as a result of the use of weapons. Human beings I fear will always find a way to harm another human being. But the truth is that less harm can be done if people have got access to less sophisticated weapons.
For the full interview, including Gillard’s thoughts on U.S. and Australian immigration issues and her famous speech about misogyny in politics, visit cityandstateny.com.
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