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The Reformer

IN THIS ISSUE

About Citizens Union and Citizens Union Foundation

Citizens Union of the City of New York is an independent, non-partisan force dedicated to promoting good government and political reform in the city and state of New York. For more than a century, Citizens Union has served as a watchdog for the public interest and an advocate for the common good. We work to ensure fair elections, clean campaigns, and open, effective government that is accountable to the citizens of New York. We do so by informing the policy debate and influencing the policy outcomes that affect the lives of all New Yorkers. Believing that an informed citizenry is the cornerstone of a thriving local democracy, Citizens Union Foundation – the non profit research, education, and advocacy organization affiliated with CU – publishes Gotham Gazette, a front row seat to New York City policies and politics.

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from Dick Dadey, Executive Director

Citizens Union’s leaders and members are actively involved in the transition committees of the newly elected Governor and Attorney General. We look forward to 2007 as we anticipate significant opportunities to advance good government reforms in the coming months.

As we approach the end of the year, I want to thank all of our members and contributors for their support. We couldn’t do it without you. If you are able to make an end of year gift, please do so because there is so much we want to do in the coming year from working to end gerrymandering, reduce the influence of money in state politics, end the back room selection of our Supreme Court Judges, and more. Click here to make an online gift.

Happy Holidays and Best Wishes for 2007!

CU Leaders Serving on Transition Teams

CU and CUF are well represented on the transition teams of both the Governor-elect and Attorney General-elect.

Dick Dadey and several of CU’s board members were appointed to Spitzer’s transition team. CUF president, Robert Abrams was appointed Chair of the Government Reform Policy Advisory Committee, on which CU board member Richard Briffault and executive director, Dick Dadey will also serve. CUF board member Sheena Wright is serving on the Housing Advisory Committee while CUF board member Ashok Gupta serves as chair of the Environment and Energy Committee; a committee on which CU board member and vice chair Luis Garden Acosta also serves. Additionally, CU board member Eric Lee is on the Homeland Security Committee.

Click here for a complete list of those serving on Governor-elect Spitzer’s transition team.

CUF President Robert Abrams is the Executive Chair of Andrew Cuomo’s transition team and Dick Dadey is serving on Cuomo’s Public Integrity Committee.

 

Legislative Updates

Hearings, Hearings, Hearings

As 2006 winds down, and the residents of New York State await the swearing in of a new Governor and a new Attorney General, city and state agencies are busy holding public hearings to evaluate past performance and provide opportunities for the public to comment on proposals for the future. The following is a run down of some important hearings over the next several weeks that relate to the reform of city and state government.

 

City Hearings

The City Council Committee on Government Operations will hold a hearing to review the New York City Campaign Finance Board’s Report on the 2005 Elections: Public Dollars for the Public Good. Click here to view a pdf of the report. The hearing will take place on Thursday, December 7 at 1:00 pm in the 16th Floor hearing room at 250 Broadway in Manhattan.

The Voter Assistance Commission will hold its bi-monthly meeting followed by an Annual Public Hearing on Thursday, December 7, 2006, beginning at 5:00 pm at CUNY Graduate Center, Elebash Recital Hall, 1st Floor at 365 5th Avenue at 34th Street in Manhattan. Click here to read the agenda for this meeting and to learn more about the Voters Assistance Commission visit their website.

Responding to recent legislation that was passed by the City Council with the strong backing of the Mayor, the Conflict of Interest Board has issued amendments to its gift rule (Board Rules section 1-01) specifically prohibiting the giving of gifts from lobbyists to public officials. Click here to read the draft rule and the notice of opportunity to comment. The hearing will take place on December 8 from 10:00 am – 3:00 pm at Spector Hall at 22 Reade Street in Manhattan.

 

State Hearings

The Assembly Committee on Judiciary and Assembly Committee on Codes will hold a joint hearing on the reform of New York State’s Justice Courts on Thursday, Dec. 14. The hearing will take place in the Roosevelt Hearing Room C of the Legislative Office Building, 2nd Floor, Albany, New York at 10:00 am. To view the public notice click here.

The Assembly Committee on the Judiciary will hold one of a series of hearings on selection of Supreme Court justices in the wake of the court decision that deemed the current convention system unconstitutional on Friday, December 15 at 9:30 am. To view the public notice click here.

The Senate Standing Committee on Judiciary has scheduled a hearing on selection of Supreme Court justices in the wake of the court decision that deemed the current convention system unconstitutional. The hearing will be held on January 8 in the Van Buren Hearing Room A, Legislative Office Building, 2nd Floor, Albany, New York at 10:00 A.M.

Member Item Reporting

Over the past two weeks, the New York State Legislature has made public the details of its “member item” spending projects that were doled out last year. Each year the Assembly and the Senate set aside $85 million in taxpayer dollars to pay for these projects that are awarded without oversight or by any known formula or rationale. The disclosures, which good-government and fiscal watchdog organizations have been calling for years, were prompted by a court order following a lawsuit filed by the Albany Times Union. Citizens Union supported this suit by joining a good government amicus brief. Click here to view a list of the disclosed projects.

What many find most striking was the Assembly leader Speaker Sheldon Silver’s share of the pie, which amounted to $7.2 million of the $85 million that the Assembly spends in this manner each year, far and above the largest share of the money he allocates each year to his many colleagues in the Assembly.

Last month, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn announced that the council would now begin identifying the names of lawmakers behind their “member items,” a move that many believe will add greater transparency and fiscal discipline to the city’s budget process.

 

Election Result Correction

In the last issue of THE REFORMER, Jonathan Bing, Assembly District 73 in Manhattan, was omitted from the list of candidates endorsed by Citizens Union. Bing won re-election.

 

Who is Citizens Union?

Member and Gotham Reformer, Mark Foggin

Mark Foggin joined Citizens Union in 2000 because of the important role that Citizens Union plays. This year he helped to launch the Gotham Reformers, a new group of Citizens Union members under the age of 40. His leadership and involvement contributed greatly to the success of their first event.

“I’ve been privileged to be in a position to work for change from within, in order to make government responsive and accountable to the needs of our City’s residents. While some change occurs from within, other changes comes from having a cohesive group of voices advocating from outside and developing a sense of advocacy among constituents. That is the important role of CU. Its challenge is to demonstrate to the public how its elected officials make and implement policy, and to empower our residents to play an active role in deciding how that happens.”

Mark Foggin has extensive experience in New York City government. He is currently the Assistant Director of the NYC Mayor’s Office of Industrial & Manufacturing Businesses where he works to support and grow the City’s blue-collar job sector and ensure that good-paying jobs remain available to New Yorkers from a range of educational backgrounds. Previously, Foggin was with the Department of Health & Mental Hygiene in a variety of roles and has served as Chief of Staff at the Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management where he spearheaded multi-agency emergency management initiatives and oversaw over 30 City agencies’ emergency management activities. A life-long New Yorker and city maven, Foggin also writes essays about NYC people and places and has been giving walking tours of its farthest flung neighborhoods in all five boroughs.

 

Gotham Gazette Highlights

The Idle Rich

New Help For The Working Poor?”

The Challenge of Eating Healthy”

50 Bullets, Many Issues

Click here to subscribe to one or several of the Gotham Gazette e-newsletters. Our latest one is a monthly update from our Measuring Up section on how government performance is measured.

 

Join Citizens Union

The opportunity for good government reforms is greatly improved by the November general election results. This adds to the important of building our base of members and supporters. Please help spread the word about Citizens Union and our work so that we can be more effective in the months and years to come. Click here to forward this newsletter to your friends and colleagues and encourage them to become members. Click here to join Citizens Union or renew your membership.

Citizens Union In the News

• December 6, 2006, ” Navy Yard Called A Deadbeat,” The Daily News
• December 5, 2006,” Council Speaker Quinn Given Mixed Grades on ‘Reform,‘” The New York Sun
• December 5, 2006, ” City Council Raise Signed Into Law,” WNYC Click here to link to the audio files.
• November 27, 2006, “Spitzer Turns to Chenault, Rohatyn for Policy Advice,” Bloomberg News
• November 21, 2006, “Spitzer Warns of Fiscal Pain,” Gay City News
• November 17, 2006, “Opponents of Council Pay Raise Point to Members’ Outside Jobs,” The New York Times
• November 17, 2006, “Pre-Decided, ” Politicker

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