Did you know that Jim Comey was born in Yonkers? His testimony yesterday set the stage for the 2018 midterm elections and Gov. Cuomo is going to be involved, in his own way. But first: New York City has elections this year and one of them saw a sudden twist.
Read on for all of that and more in this week’s ShakingNewsletter!
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Quote of the Week: “It’s like a Mafia turf war,” – Darrin Giglio, a private investigator for Mister Softee, about the competition between ice cream trucks. Mister Softee still holds more than half of the street-vendor permits in NYC but rival New York Ice Cream is catching up.
Tuesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo launched a campaign to go after Republicans. Standing beside House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Cuomo declared that New York would fight back to take back Congress district-by-district.
Yet this “New York Fights Back” is an interesting campaign.
This week, Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito shook on a deal setting out New York City’s budget. They accomplished this difficult negotiation weeks before the deadline (it’s the earliest budget since 1992), likely in part because the Mayor and Council Members need to go out and campaign for re-election.
The plan has New York City spending $85.2 billion, slightly more than de Blasio’s earlier budget proposal. This is the final budget of Mayor de Blasio’s four-year term, during which time the budget has increased nearly 20% from $72 billion.
What are the highlights?
- Expanding the free school lunch and breakfast program to all elementary schools.
- Building gyms at schools so that all schools have a full PE program by 2021.
- Millions to help seniors and war veterans.
Normally when a politician says they are retiring to spend more time with their family, we’re skeptical. But Queens Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland seems to really mean it, describing the anguish of not being able to spend enough time with her husband and son. Though she was widely seen as a rising star, Ferreras-Copeland says she’s putting her happiness first.
Why this matters:
- This shakes up the race to be the next Council Speaker, perhaps the second most powerful role in City politics after the Mayor. Ferreras-Copeland was seen as a serious contender for the position, which is voted on by the City Council. Queens Democratic Leader Joe Crowley is now free to wheel and deal to boost whichever candidate will do the most for him.
- This highlights the plight faced by women in government. We mentioned this issue last week when the New York Times reported on how many women left working for Mayor de Blasio amid complaints about mismanagement and a hostile workplace. It’s a real problem.
- With Ferreras-Copeland leaving, only 8 out of 51 City Councilmembers are likely to be women next year, and the Speaker (currently a Puerto Rican woman, Melissa Mark-Viverito) will probably be a white man, too.
Stories We’re Following
• Is a Trump Ally Profiting Off Congress?
The Hill reports that Buffalo Congressman Chris Collins told colleagues to buy stock in a biotech company where he’s on the board. He also reportedly has brought the company up in official business.
Collins, one of President Trump’s closest allies in Congress, is currently under investigation for trading off inside information in connection with this same company.
He also memorably told CNN he didn’t know how Trumpcare would affect New York, though he stands to gain millions off his biotech investment.
• Republicans Toy with de Blasio Over Mayoral Control
Mayoral control of New York City schools is set to expire, threatening to plunge the school system into chaos, unless the state legislature passes a law extending the program.
However, the Senate GOP threatens to continue mayoral control only if NYC allows more charter schools. They are also pushing to include a tax cut for rich New York City residents and a tax credit for private schools, too. Meanwhile their IDC allies offered another bill tinkering around the edges by letting neighborhood education councils choose superintendents.
Everyone agrees that if mayoral control expired, it would be a disaster for schoolchildren. Of course, the Post blames de Blasio for not compromising and straining relationships with Senate Republicans. They have something of a point–de Blasio, a Democrat, did campaign for Democrats against Republicans. It seems like Republicans haven’t forgiven him for helping his own party, unlike Gov. Cuomo with his tacit support of Senate Republicans.
While de Blasio deserves his share of blame for problems with New York City schools, no one seriously pretends that the IDC and Republicans in the Senate are trying to address them. The only real explanation for their behavior is that they want to score points. And they’re willing to imperil NYC schools in order to do so.
• New York Tries to Be Sustainable
With Trump taking the US out of the Paris Climate Agreement, New York can expect warmer temperatures, greater flooding and more damage from storms, and a whole host of other issues.
- Did you see the New York Times article about composting? New York is trying to become more sustainable but it’s challenging for all sorts of reasons. However, building greener, more dense neighborhoods and improving public transit so people don’t have to drive will have more of an impact than composting. (It’ll be more affordable, too).
- Check out this comparison between the subway map and where the trains really run. Notice how squished together everything is in Manhattan and how much further apart subway lines are in Brooklyn and Queens.
- The Move NY group is proposing a plan to charge drivers for going into downtown Manhattan and use that money to pay for better transit. Their original plan required state approval and would also have lowered tolls on bridges between the outer boroughs where there are fewer mass transit options. This plan could be adopted by New York City but the money wouldn’t go directly to the MTA and so would make less of an immediate impact on fixing all the issues with the subways.
Statistic of the Week: $170 million. New York State could lose up to $170 million in federal highway funding (out of $1.7 billion last year) if the state doesn’t remove new “I Love NY” highway signs. The Federal Highway Administration ordered New York State not to put up the signs because they distract drivers but Cuomo’s Department of Transportation did anyway.