For Immediate Release
Contact- Lauren Mannerberg, [email protected], 929 553 7702
Good Government Group Supports a Statewide Measure to Create The 2022 Environmental Bond Act, a Historic Opportunity to Combat Climate Change, and Supports Citywide Equity Measures as Critical Goals for New York City
To Read About Citizen Union’s Positions, Click Here
New York, N.Y. (October 24, 2022) – Citizens Union today announced Citizens Union’s recommendations on proposals on the ballot for this fall’s general election. The first proposal will be posed to all New York State voters, and the additional three proposals will only be on the ballots of New York City voters.
After rigorously evaluating each proposal, Citizens Union recommends that voters support all four proposals. Question 1 was referred to the ballot by the State Legislature. Questions 2, 3, and 4 were put on the ballot by a Charter Revision Commission, called the Racial Justice Commission. These proposals cover issues including combating climate change and improving the environment and addressing racial equity in New York City.
Citizens Union recommends a yes vote on Question 1, which would create the 2022 Environmental Bond Act—the largest Bond Act measure ever on the ballot in New York. This would fund the state’s aggressive plans to mitigate and adapt to the growing impacts of climate change. If passed, the state would issue and sell up to $4.2 billion of general obligation bonds to provide long-term, dedicated funding for specified categories of environmental capital projects. These include restoration and flood risk reduction, water quality improvement and resilient infrastructure, open space land conservation and recreation, and climate change mitigation. At least 35% of the total $4.2 billion is required to be spent in “disadvantaged communities,” with a goal of reaching 40%.
In recent years, New York State has enacted several measures meant to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fully transition to clean energy, including the 2019 Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, one of the most ambitious climate laws in the country. The U.S. Congress has approved massive funding and incentives for the production of electric power, construction of renewable energy projects, and development of advanced technologies for clean energy. The Environmental Bond Act before the voters would provide the funding needed to achieve the goals set by those laws.
New York State’s history with environmental bond acts goes back to 1910, and previous bond acts have obligated roughly $30 billion (adjusted) towards environmental programs and projects. Citizens Union has supported such bond acts in the past, including the most recent one, The Clean Water/Clean Air Bond Act of 1996. Citizens Union also supported other bond acts to fund large-scale transportation projects, including in 2005, 2000, and 1983.
“The 2022 Environmental Bond Act offers a historic opportunity to provide essential funding for New York’s ambitious efforts in combating the adverse impacts of climate change, as well as to further environmental justice and simultaneously stimulate the economy. It is consistent with past efforts by the state to lead and implement programs to further environmental protection, natural resource conservation, and the related quality of life in the state. Citizens Union considers the Environmental Bond Act a prime example of good government and recommends supporting it,” said Betsy Gotbaum, executive director of Citizens Union.
New York City Proposals:
Citizens Union recommends a yes vote on Question 2 that would establish an amendment that would add a preamble to the charter that declares an intention and vision to create a more equitable future. This preamble would focus on equity for all New Yorkers and is intended to guide policymakers. The ballot proposal would add Charter section 1151-a, which defines the effects of the preamble. It would require City agencies and officials to “consider and be guided” by the values stated in the preamble and to “examine” whether these values are being realized. However, it explicitly states the preamble does not create a “direct or indirect right of action to enforce its terms.”
Citizens Union recommends a yes vote on Question 3 which would require the city to establish a bi-annual racial equity plan, which would be managed by a new office and overseen by a new commission. The racial equity plan will outline short-term and long-term racial equity goals and strategies, performance and outcome indicators, and guidance for agencies.
The planning process for the racial equity plan would sync up with the citywide budget process to align NYC’s spending priorities with equity priorities. There is no requirement for spending to be allocated. Covered agencies would also be required to complete individual agency racial equity plans, which would be incorporated into the mayor’s citywide racial equity plan. A new Office of Racial Equity, led by a mayoral appointee, will be tasked with developing the plan and supporting city agencies in the process. The Office will also establish an access design program to reduce barriers to City services. The proposed amendment would also create a commission on racial equity, which would act as an oversight body on the racial equity plan and enable community members with equity expertise and lived experience to influence city decision-making.
Citizens Union recommends a yes vote on Question 4 which would require City government to develop and report, beginning in 2024, an annual “true cost of living” measurement of what it costs to live in New York City without consideration of public, private, or informal assistance. The new measure is meant to complement existing measures such as the federal poverty line, which is often seen as an outdated and inaccurate standard, or the NYCgov poverty measure, which misses many poor households because it calculates public assistance as income, putting many families above the poverty line.
“The goals of all three proposals are worthy objectives in line with the values of Citizens Union. Racial equity is a critical goal for New York City, and the charter proposals reflect the lived experience of many in a City that is majority people of color, with a long history of racial inequity. The proposals would place a focus on inequality that currently is lacking in the Charter or the City’s operational structure. Citizens Union does have concerns as to whether the proposals will lead to meaningful change. There is no assurance that the Racial Equity Plan will be implemented or that spending will be allocated based on it, even though the implementation is tied to the budget cycle. Citizens Union believes that for the proposals to be effective, City leaders must exercise strong, committed, and ongoing leadership from the Mayor on down,” said Betsy Gotbaum, executive director of Citizens Union.
For follow up, please contact Lauren Mannerberg at Anat Gerstein, Inc. at
[email protected] or 347-361-9983
About Citizens Union
For 125 years, Citizens Union has been a force for transparency, accountability and ethics in New York’s City and State governments. A nonpartisan organization, some of our current initiatives include a new agenda for police accountability, monitoring the City Council’s redistricting process and increasing civic engagement. Learn more at www.citizensunion.org.