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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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Welcome from Dick Dadey, Executive Director

Welcome to the July issue of THE REFORMER, our new e-newsletter for Citizen Union members and Citizens Union Foundation contributors. It was good to see many of you at our annual members meeting last month. Summer is one of the busiest periods for Citizens Union. Our candidate evaluation work is underway with many new members joining our Local Candidates Committee, and we have events planned and candidate forums scheduled. Read on for the details.

Would you please help us to build our membership and spread the word about our efforts? You can forward this newsletter to your friends and colleagues using the ‘Email a Friend’ link opposite. Also, if you are getting this newsletter and are not a Citizens Union member (or have lapsed in your support), please sign up to support the oldest, active good government organization in the City and help us bring greater political reform to New York.


Lobbying Reform Bills Signed

On Tuesday, June 13th, Mayor Bloomberg signed into law the three lobbying bills that Citizens Union, through its research, reporting and advocacy, helped to advance. This was a significant day in the recent history of CU since we created the climate for reform and made the case for such change.

Richard J. Davis, Chair of CU and CUF, and Dick Dadey, Executive Director, join Mayor Bloomberg, Speaker Quinn, and other Council members to witness and participate in the bill signing ceremony.


Launch of Poll Worker Recruitment

You Can Help to Make Our Votes Count

In an effort to assist the City Board of Elections to recruit the over 30,000 poll workers needed to staff each election, Citizens Union Foundation has launched its 2006 Poll Worker Recruitment Program. Continuing from last year’s success, the 2006 program is focused on recruiting and engaging qualified individuals to become interpreters (as mandated by the Voting Rights Act). This year, we are also making a special effort to reach out to college students to become a part of the civic process by assisting in the administration of elections.

As New York moves to implement HAVA and transitions to new voting systems, it is ever more important to ensure that there are enough capable and knowledgeable poll workers who can serve on Election Day.

We are seeking applicants for four poll worker positions:

Descriptions and qualifications can be found on our website.

Interested applicants can apply directly via our website at or contact us at the Poll Worker Hotline at (212) 227-0342 ext. 46.


Legislature Leaves Reformers Waiting

Despite advocates’ hopes to continue the 2005 drumbeat of reform into 2006, the State Legislature wrapped up its session on June 23, without addressing key issues that would increase accountability of elected officials and transparency of government. The Legislature failed to act on campaign finance reform, the strengthening of ethics laws (including much needed limits on legislators’ personal use of campaign funds), and the thorny political matter of legislative and congressional redistricting reform. Earlier this year, Citizens Union, good government groups and concerned New Yorkers convened the 2006 Reform New York Lobby Day in Albany to advocate for these issues and specifically call for legislative rules reform and increased transparency in the budgeting process.

On a positive note, legislation that would create a non partisan redistricting commission and apply a set of strict and fair guidelines to the redistricting process has been introduced in the Senate and now exists in both houses. (Assemblymember Michael Gianaris and Senator Nick Spano have introduced the bills.) The Assembly has also announced that it will be holding statewide hearings this summer on redistricting reform–a sign of the increasing prominence of the issue and an opportunity to build more support.

The Assembly also passed a last minute ethics reform bill, A.11900-b, that restricts honoraria, strengthens the state’s gift ban, addresses the revolving door practice of former legislative employees becoming lobbyists, and creates ethics training for public officials and lobbyist. The bill does not have a Senate counterpart and like so many other issues will be left for the next legislature to grapple with

Who is Citizens Union?

This is the second in a series of profiles of civic leaders among Citizens Union’s board of directors and members.

Robert Abrams, President of Citizens Union Foundation

Robert Abrams was elected to three terms in the New York State Assembly, three terms as Borough President of the Bronx and four terms as Attorney General of New York State. In 1994 after fifteen years of distinguished service as Attorney General, he joined the law firm of Stroock, Stroock & Lavan. As Attorney General, Mr. Abrams was widely known as a champion and protector of consumer rights.

In his capacity as Attorney General, Mr. Abrams headed one of the largest law offices in the nation. He assembled an outstanding staff that enabled him to launch pioneering efforts in the areas of environment, consumer and civil rights protection, and criminal prosecutions. More than 250 of his legislative proposals were passed and signed into law. Bob Abrams was a national leader among attorneys general, becoming president of the national association of attorneys general and being selected by his colleagues as the recipient of the coveted Wyman Award as the outstanding attorney general in the national.

At Stroock, Mr. Abrams advises a diverse range of companies on advertising, antitrust, telecommunications, and environmental issues. Mr. Abrams has advised corporations facing investigation by a state attorney general or a group of attorneys general. He was a member of the Stroock team advising the Commissioner of Insurance in Massachusetts and has served as an arbitrator in domestic and international hearings.

The NYU School of Law established an Annual Attorney General Robert Abrams Public Service Lecture whereby each year a prominent public figure discusses the opportunities that lawyers have for significant public service during their careers.

Mr. Abrams was appointed by Mayor Bloomberg to serve on the recent Charter Revision Commission. The recommendations of which were approved by the voters in the last November election.

The President of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York appointed Mr. Abrams to be a member of a fact finding delegation to report on the secessionist take over of a portion of the nation of Moldova in Eastern Europe. The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee is currently reviewing the report issued by the delegation.

Throughout his career in public life and private practice Robert Abrams has served New Yorkers ably and with integrity.



Launch of Gotham Reformers Committee

On July 19th Citizens Union with chairs Helena Durst, Mark Foggin, Jennifer Mercurio, and Edward Swenson will launch a new initiative – the Gotham Reformers – to engage and involve young civic leaders and professionals in our work. For more information, click here.


Annual Dinner Honorees

We are proud to announce the honorees for Citizens Union’s 2006 Annual Dinner on October 24th at the Waldorf=Astoria:

  • Our Business Leadership Award will be presented to the Partnership for New York City, which has strengthened the economy of New York City and contributed mightily to maintaining the city as the center of world commerce, finance and innovation.
  • Elizabeth Stribling, who heads one of the most prestigious residential real estate firms in the country, will receive our Civic Leadership Award for her many contributions to improving the fabric and landscape of life in New York.
  • Peter F. Vallone, Sr. will receive our Public Service Award which acknowledges his work as the first Speaker of the City Council after the 1989 charter revision, where he molded the Council into a more effective legislature that better serves the citizens of New York.
  • And, the Robert F. Wagner Jr. Award will be presented to Richard Kahan, Chair of the Urban Assembly, for his contributions to the city both as a public official and civic leader.

Click here to request an invitation and more information.



Local Candidates Committee Evaluating Candidates in the Primary Election

Citizens Union’s team of committed volunteers is preparing to meet with candidates for the Primary Election as part of this year’s candidate evaluation process. Every year since 1910, Citizens Union has evaluated candidates and published a Voters Directory read by thousands of journalists, activists, officials and ordinary New Yorkers. This year, in addition to evaluating legislative candidates, Citizens Union is taking the historic step of also evaluating candidates for statewide office–Attorney General, Comptroller and Governor. Citizens Union will also return to its roots by issuing “Endorsed Candidate” ratings for the General Election. We will continue to issue our “Preferred Candidate” ratings in Primary Election contests.

In order for candidates to receive either the “Preferred” or “Endorsed” rating, they will be expected to demonstrate support for Citizens Union’s far-reaching reform agenda, as well as an ability to advance CU’s goals if elected. A candidate’s capacity to grasp state, local and community issues and propose thoughtful solutions is considered evidence of their ability to wage an effective and competitive campaign. Evaluation of the candidates and the decision to support a particular candidate will be made without regard to political party. To those members who are participating in the Local Candidates Committee process this year — Thank You!


Candidate Forums

Citizens Union will also host the following Primary Election candidate debates in August:

  • State Assembly District 74, Manhattan – Monday, August 14
  • State Assembly District 22, Queens – Tuesday, August 22
  • State Senate District 13, Queens – Wednesday, August 23

For more information about the candidates or debates, or to become involved in the Local Candidates Committee, please e-mail Doug Israel at [email protected].


Annual Members Meeting

On June 20th, more than a hundred Citizens Union members met for our annual meeting. Phillip Howard, founder of Common Good and Chair of the Municipal Arts Society, spoke about new approaches to reforming government. He endorsed CU’s work by explaining that, in the century since Citizens Union was founded, government has gotten bigger and the problems have changed. “We couldn’t live without government, so the goal of making it work better could hardly be more important.”


Citizens Union Membership Campaign

In June Citizens Union launched a membership recruitment campaign. Our goal is to recruit more than 500 new members in the next twelve months. One part of this campaign is our new Gotham Reformers Committee mentioned above (link up to events section n the newsletter). In addition we are reaching out to engage New Yorkers through email, snail mail, events and existing member networks. Here is what one member wrote to her friends about why to join Citizens Union:

Wondering if Citizens Union is your speed? Did you vote in the last election? Did you read the metro section this morning? Have you ever written a letter to Mayor Mike? Ever called 311? Have you watched NY1 or Channel 25 for at least 10 minutes in the last month? Do the words “performance measurement” make the hairs on your arms stand on end? Then you should join Citizens Union.
I can assure that I am as meticulous and persnickety about the causes I throw my weight behind as I am about everything else in life. You will be helping an excellent group doing important work to make New York a better place. And who doesn’t support that?

If you would like to help spread the word about joining Citizens Union to your friends and colleagues, contact [email protected] for more information.


Gotham Gazette

Citizens Union Foundation’s Gotham Gazette, a Web site of New York City news and policy, offers user friendly coverage of the most important issues facing the City. Our daily enews blast, The Eye-Opener, has recently enrolled its 10,000th subscriber. Have you subscribed? To sign up for this informative, valuable and timely resource click here.

Recent highlights of our independent and user friendly coverage include:

Despite talk of reform, city and state officials still have plenty of opportunities to dole out pork barrel in their districts

Salaries for NYC elected officials

Efforts have been made to reform New York’s hidden government, its hundreds of public authorities. But many politicians and good government groups say that much more need to be done.

If you haven’t already done so, please make a contribution to the Gotham Gazette summer appeal. Click  here to support our award winning news and policy Web site.


Join Citizens Union

By joining your voice adds to our cause. Being involved with and supportive of Citizens Union gives you a front row seat to New York City politics. In addition to this monthly e-newsletter, members receive our primary and general election Voters Directory, invitations to our issue forums and special events, and have the opportunity to serve on one of our many committees. Citizens Union relies on the support of its members for funding and involvement.

To engage and involve younger members, Citizens Union launched its Gotham Reformers membership campaign last month and is organizing more ways to involve this new crop of members in the work of the organization. Click here to learn more about this exciting initiative.

Citizens Union In the News

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