|Engaging New Yorkers to Reform Government||Vol. 1, Issue 7|
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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The past few weeks have been a particularly busy, exciting, and on occasion disappointing, period. We have evaluated and recommended candidates for the general election, held our very successful Annual Awards Dinner, held a membership event to discuss land use on the west side of Manhattan, made a necessary but difficult decision to call for Comptroller Alan Hevesi’s resignation, appeared in over 30 news stories, pushed the City Council to reform the way in which its members are paid, and begun to prepare for an era of reform in Albany with the election of a new Governor.
After pushing for much needed reform at the state level, the recent election results offer advocates for good government and political reform in New York plenty of hope. We have achieved an unprecedented environment to advance our reform agenda to making state government more transparent, our elected officials more accountable, campaigns more fair, and elections more competitive. In the coming months we will step up our efforts in advocating for a non-partisan legislative redistricting commission, changes to the state’s ethics laws and campaign finance laws, and pushing for voting machines that work and count all votes cast. Even with a supportive Governor and some momentum in the legislature, achieving this kind of fundamental systemic change will not be easy. We will need the help of all our members, supporters and others.
I ask you to help in these efforts by informing your colleagues and friends about reform issues and encouraging them to join Citizens Union. You may use the email a friend link to help spread the word. In the coming months THE REFORMER will keep you apprised of our activities and other opportunities for you to participate and help.
On November 15, the City Council passed legislation increasing the salaries of all city elected officials. The increases were the first in seven years, and were recommended by a Mayoral Commission appointed earlier this year after Mayor Bloomberg did not convene one in 2003 as required by the City Charter because of the city’s then fiscal crisis.
The old and new salaries are as follows:
Amount of Increase
|City Council||$ 90,000||$112,500||
On November 8, Citizens Union testified before a hearing of the Government Operations Committee of the City Council on the issue of elected official compensation. Dick Dadey delivered Citizens Union’s position which:
- Supported the proposed new salaries for Mayor, Comptroller and District Attorneys.
- Did not support the proposed new salaries for Borough Presidents and Public Advocate, instead recommending a smaller increase than that put forth by the Commission.
- Supported the proposed City Council salary increase but only if the Council were to stop the practice of awarding committee chairs additional stipends and to commit to having a citywide discussion about the possible need for changing the job of Member of the City Council from part time to a full time and restricting the earning of outside income.
- Urged the Council to press for a reconfigured timeline for the Quadrennial Commission to consider future increases so that council members are never voting to increase their own salaries for the present term of office.
Please here here for the complete text of this testimony.
On his first day back in Albany after winning the governorship, Eliot Spitzer held an important, initial meeting with six good government groups. In addition to Citizens Union, the Brennan Center for Justice, Citizen Action, Common Cause/NY, League of Women Voters, and New York Interest Research Group were in attendance. The meeting, held in his Attorney General office with his Lieutenant Governor-Elect David Paterson present, was an introductory one that focused on demonstrating his continued commitment to making reform of state government central to his work as Governor. Though nothing specific was decided, many political reform issues were discussed, including ethics, campaign finance and redistricting. He made the case that he wants to move quickly on some key reform issues and is exploring ways in which he could efficiently use his executive power to jump start the effort and challenge the state legislature to follow. Particularly symbolic of the importance Spitzer places on government reform was the fact that the meeting with the good government groups was held prior to his first meeting with legislative leaders, Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno, and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.
Steve Lynn chair of the Arizona Redistricting Commission testifies before NYS legislative hearings.
Redistricting reform, a key issue for both Citizens Union and Citizens Union Foundation, has received increasing attention during the latest elections and through a series of hearings to investigate the current system and potential changes. On October 17th the Assembly Committee on Government Operations and the Legislative Task Force on Redistricting held joint hearings in New York City. The hearing was hosted by seven Assemblymembers and co-chaired by RoAnn Destito (D-Rome) and Adriano Espaillat (D-Manhattan). The panel heard valuable testimony from a number of experts, voting and civil rights organizations, legal professionals, and good government groups, including Citizens Union’s Dick Dadey. (Click here for a complete transcript of the hearings or here for Citizens Union’s testimony.)
Citizens Union also brought in Steve Lynn, chair of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission to speak about his state’s independent process. With a new procedure instituted in 2000, Arizona has been an instructive model for implementing redistricting reforms. Lynn’s comments drew pointed questions from the panel, and sparked engaging exchanges about the role of an independent redistricting body.
Peter Wagner, Executive Director of the Prison Policy Initiative, also testified at the request of Citizens Union on how prisoners are counted for reapportionment purposes. This calculation can inflate the population figures for upstate districts since many prisoners incarcerated there are coming from downstate, thus undermining the principle of “one person, one vote” and skewing minority representation. His remarks helped to inform the debate and clarify an issue of special interest to New York City constituents and voting advocates.
Other common considerations among experts and groups include the partisan diversity of the body charged with redistricting, enumeration of clear and meaningful redistricting criteria, passage of the plans, fair representation for minority groups, compliance with the Voting Rights Act, and how to account for prison populations.
With three bills under consideration and the election of Eliot Spitzer as Governor, the issue of fair redistricting practices has gained increased attention and support. Three more hearings will take place early next year, at which Citizens Union will present specific recommendations for the future of redistricting.
On October 24th, Citizens Union called on Alan Hevesi to resign as New York State Comptroller because of his personal use of state resources to provide his wife with a state-employed chauffeur. CU took the action after having read the damming report issued by the state’s Ethics Commission in which it issued a finding of reasonable cause, stating, “that Mr. Hevesi knowingly and intentionally used his position as New York State Comptroller to secure unwarranted privileges for himself and his wife, and in doing so, pursued a course of conduct that raises suspicion among the public that he likely engaged in acts that violated the public trust.”
In its statement calling upon Hevesi to resign, CU asserted that, ”unless the Ethics Commission’s factual conclusions are incorrect, Citizens Union believes Hevesi’s actions are so inconsistent with one of the fundamental responsibilities of the Comptroller—being the watchdog over the use of taxpayer dollars—that he should resign. CU took this position reluctantly because he has in so many ways been an effective Comptroller.
Hevesi was re-elected to office with 56% of the vote last Tuesday against an under funded and not particularly well qualified opponent, J. Christopher Callaghan. Governor Pataki appointed former federal prosecutor David Kelley to review the Hevesi case and in a joint press conference with Governor-elect Eliot Spitzer stated that process has been put in place to address the issue, although it is still unclear what action, if any, Pataki will now choose to take. Spitzer may be left to deal with the matter when he takes office but he is waiting to choose any course of action until then. Meanwhile, Hevesi still faces the possibility of removal by the legislature or he may decide to resign in the face of a possible criminal investigation.
For the Primary and General Elections, Citizens Union Local Candidates Committee interviewed a total of 79 candidates and evaluated 34 General Election races. This year marked the first time in its 109-year history that Citizens Union evaluated and endorsed candidates for statewide office. Citizens Union distributed its much heralded Voters Directory for this year’s General Election. The outcomes of those races are as follows:
- 24 Endorsed Candidates won their General Election contest
- 0 Endorsed Candidates lost their General Election contest
- 10 No Endorsements Issued
Names in bold are incumbents.
|STATEWIDE OFFICES||CU Preferred Candidate||Outcome|
|Attorney General||Andrew Cuomo||WON|
|Comptroller||No Endorsement||Alan Hevesi|
|Senate District 31||Eric Schneiderman||WON re-election|
|Senate District 34||No Endorsement||Jeffrey Klein|
|Assembly District 81||Jeffrey Dinowitz||WON re-election|
|Senate District 18||Velmanette Montgomery||WON re-election|
|Senate District 20||Eric Adams||WON open seat|
|Senate District 21||Kevin Parker||WON re-election|
|Assembly District 43||No Endorsement||Karim Camara|
|Assembly District 44||James Brennan||WON re-election|
|Assembly District 46||Alec Brook-Krasny||WON open seat|
|Assembly District 47||William Colton||WON re-election|
|Assembly District 52||Joan Millman||WON re-election|
|Assembly District 55||William Boyland, Jr.||WON re-election|
|Assembly District 57||Hakeem Jeffries||WON open seat|
|Assembly District 58||No Endorsement||Nick Perry|
|Senate District 25*||No Endorsement||Martin Connor|
|Senate District 29||Thomas K. Duane||WON re-election|
|Senate District 30||Bill Perkins||WON open seat|
|Assembly District 65||Alexander “Pete” Grannis||WON re-election|
|Assembly District 67||Linda Rosenthal||WON re-election|
|Assembly District 68||No Endorsement||Adam Clayton Powell|
|Assembly District 72||Adriano Espaillat||WON re-election|
|Assembly District 74||Brian Kavanagh||
WON, defeated incumbent Sylvia Friedman
|Senate District 11||Frank Padavan||WON re-election|
|Senate District 15||No Endorsement||Serphin Maltese|
|Assembly District 22||No Endorsement||
Ellen Young (open seat)
|Assembly District 23||Audrey Pheffer||WON re-election|
|Assembly District 25||Rory Lancman||WON open seat|
|Assembly District 28||Andrew Hevesi||WON re-election|
|Senate District 24||No Endorsement||Andrew Lanza (open seat)|
|Assembly District 60||No Endorsement||
Janele Hyer-Spencer (open seat)
*District includes portions of Brooklyn and Manhattan
Christina Davis first became a director of Citizens Union in 1991. Her longtime involvement in the civic life of the City drew her to Citizens Union and its mission. She has served on the Local Candidates, the Development and the Executive Committees. Soon after she joined the board, she became co-chair of the Citizens Union Centennial Year Committee.
“I have been active in Citizens Union for more than fifteen years because it offers an opportunity to work for sorely needed “good government” reforms. I believe that there is great value in the two-party system and I wanted to support efforts to make elections more competitive.”
First appointed by Council Member Charles Millard, Davis has served on Community Board 8 in Manhattan for more than 14 years. Subsequently, Council Member Andrew Eristoff, as well as Borough Presidents C. Virginia Fields and Scott Stringer have reappointed her. She also currently serves as Chair of the New York Landmarks Preservation Foundation. In 2000, Governor Pataki appointed her to the Board of the Fashion Institute of Technology, SUNY, and the New York State Board of Historic Preservation. In addition, she is active on the Trustee’s Education Committee of the Museum of Modern Art and on USA for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.
“My work in the community has made me keenly aware of the key role Citizens Union plays to inform our citizens of the choices they have in those local elections so important to the civic life of the City.”
“For more than a hundred years, Citizens Union has worked to ensure openness, independence and integrity in City Government. New York really is the better for it. This year Citizens Union provided vital assistance and support to help us pass a landmark set of lobbying reforms that will strengthen the integrity of city government and save the tax payers money,” Mayor Michael Blommberg said.
“I want to thank Citizens Union and Dick Dadey for the terrific partners they have been with us over the past nine months at the City Council…. We have tried to be a five borough Council and a Council that is as relevant as possible to the everyday lives of New Yorkers. If we accomplished a little bit of that, it is in no small part because of Citizens Union and the focus they constantly keep on elected government,” said Speaker Christine Quinn
Citizens Union on October 24th held its Annual Awards Dinner at the Waldorf=Astoria. Mayor Bloomberg, Speaker Quinn, other Elected Officials, Civic Leaders and Guests joined to honor:
- Richard Kahan with the Robert F. Wagner, Jr. Award for his exemplary civic leadership in building the physical and human infrastructure of New York.
- Partnership for New York City with the Business Leadership Award for strengthening the local economy, building a stronger city, and making New York City a better place to live and work.
- Elizabeth Stribling with the Civic Leadership Award for her many contributions to preservation and parks in New York City and demonstrating the benefits of public-private partnerships through her own actions and by involving many others.
- Peter F. Vallone, Sr. with the Public Service Award for his remarkable service to the City of New York and his leadership as the first Speaker of the City Council after the 1989 charter revision, where he molded the Council into a more serious legislature.
We thank everyone who contributed to the success of the Citizens Union Annual Dinner for their generous support and for helping to advance good government reforms.
Citizens Union members and prospective members met on November 2nd to hear from Robert Yaro, President of the Regional Planning Association, and Councilmember Gale Brewer about land use issues on the West Side of Manhattan at the home of board member Judi Rappoport Blitzer.
After the Election – What Will Be Different Now?
This week Gotham Gazette published 17 essays on how the election results will affect New York City housing, parks, education, and much more.
Gotham Gazette continues to offer the most comprehensive reporting anywhere of the New York City elections.
Stuyvesant Town, Queens West And The Debate Over Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses by Brad Lander and Jane Jacobs, Robert Moses And City Planning Today by Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden write commentaries on planning and land use in NYC.
Gotham Gazette has launched a new enewsletter for its Measuring Up section. Click here to receive monthly updates on how government performace, and the results it produced, is measured.
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• November 16, 2006, “Council Votes to Raise Pay of Top Officials,” The New York Times
• November 16, 2006, “Council Members Vote Themselves 25 Percent Pay Raise,” NY1
• November 13, 2006, “Spitzer Tells Albany Leaders That He Seeks Partnership ,” The New York Times
• November 13, 2006, “Spitzer Sits Down With Legislative Leaders,” NY1
• November 13, 2006, “Goo-Goos Pin Hopes on Spitzer,” The New York Observer
• November 10, 2006, “Critics Pan Council Plan To Boost Pay,” The Daily News
• November 10, 2006, “Pols AWOL from the job,” AM New York
• November 9, 2006, “City Council Seeks to Boost Wages — Its Own,” AM New York
• November 9, 2006, “Some Politicans Look To New Administration To End Gerrymandering,” NY1
• November 9, 2006, “City Council to End Budget Practice Condemned As Secretive,” Staten Island Advance
• November 7, 2006, “Mechanical Lever Voting Machines Could Be History After Today’s Vote,” The New York Sun
• November 4, 2006, “Fairer Pay for the City Council ,” The New York Times
• November 2, 2006, “Judicial Reform Arrives After Election Day,” Queens Chronicle
• October 28, 2006, “Moving to End the Practice That Lets Lawmakers Draw Their Own Districts,” The NY Times
• October 28, 2006, “Making Members Accountable for Controversial Member Items,” Albany Times Union
• October 25, 2006, “City Council Wants A Raise,” Associated Press
• October 25, 2006, “Spitzer Poised To Step Back From Hevesi,” The New York Sun
• October 25, 2006, “Hevesi’s Poll Stroll Suddenly Is A Race,” Albany Times Union
• October 25, 2006, “City Council Wants To Raise Pay To Over $100,000,” NY1
• October 25, 2006, “Now That’s Chutzpah, Al! ,” The Daily News
• October 25, 2006, “Pressure Builds on Hevesi to Resign in Ethics Case,” The New York Times
• October 24, 2006, “Bigger Paydays Lie Ahead for City Pols,” New York Post.
• October 24, 2006, “Big Raises Urged for Officials & Council,” The Daily News
• October 24, 2006, “Republican, Democrat or… Rent Is Too (Damn) High,” WNYC
• October 24, 2006, “Commission Recommends 25% Pay Raise for City Council,” The New York Sun
• October 24, 2006, “Proposals Listed for Raises for City’s Elected Officials,” The New York Times
• October 23, 2006, “Off the Trail: Driver Issue Costs Hevesi an Endorsement,” The New York Times
• October 23, 2006, “Ethics Commission Says Hevesi Violated State Law,” NY1
• October 18 , 2006, “Mike Grinds Gears,” Daily News
• October 11, 2006, “Cuyahoga Poll Workers Go Back to School on Voting Machines,” Associated Press
• October 8, 2006, “Last Chance to Ask Candidates,” The New York Times
• October 7, 2006, “Raises of 2% and 4.4% Are Approved for Agency Managers ,” The New York Times