The New York Times reports on what they describe as “unfamiliar territory” for Mayor Bill de Blasio–in the lead. He came from behind to win both his races for Public Advocate in 2009 and then for Mayor in 2013. This time, however, he has few serious opponents in the Democratic primary. The Republican challengers, Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis and real estate executive Paul Massey, don’t seem to be attracting much of a following.
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.
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 it 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. While insiders pointed to her as de Blasio’s preferred candidate, her strained ties with Queens Democratic Leader Rep. Joe Crowley might have been a stumbling block.
Without Ferreras-Copeland in the race for Speaker, there are no other serious candidates from Queens, leaving Crowley free to wheel and deal. Look for him to throw his support (and the votes of the dozen-or-so Councilmembers loyal to him) to whichever candidate will deliver the most for him.
- Ferreras-Copeland’s retirement highlights the plight faced by women in government. We mentioned this issue last week whenthe New York Times reported on how many women left working for Mayor de Blasio amid complaints about mismanagement and a hostile workplace. There were suggestions that Ferreras-Copeland couldn’t be Speaker because of her young family, an accusation that virtually never comes up for fathers.
- With Ferreras-Copeland leaving, only 8 out of 51 City Councilmembers are likely to be women next year. The successor to current Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, a Puerto Rican woman, is also very likely to be a white man (probably Upper Manhattan’s Mark Levine or Corey Johnson from Chelsea). While both are progressives, many activists are dismayed at the lack of diversity in the New York City Council.
Who’s going to succeed Ferreras-Copeland?
Jackson Heights Assemblyman Francisco Moya is running to succeed Ferreras-Copeland. He has the support of the Queens Democratic Party and is widely-known thanks to his current position, making him the instant frontrunner for the Council seat.
Late Friday night, 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.
Mayor Bill de Blasio is planning on signing new laws this week to help low-wage workers. So, of course, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration is trying to pull one over on them.
In this case, the issue is low-wage worker scheduling. The city’s rules would forbid stores and fast-food restaurants from cancelling workers’ shifts without notice. It would also require that companies increase workers’ hours before hiring new employees. The state rules are still being formulated and might apply to more workers. However, the regulations could be weaker on the city rules and prevent New York City and other localities from imposing stricter rules.
Memorial Day weekend brought a drumbeat of bad headlines for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio:
- He’s upsetting even supporters with his tardiness and disorganization.
- The Mayor failed to correctly register the two buildings he owned.
- A big New York Times story blamed de Blasio’s management style for an exodus of women from city administration.
Break these down for me
The first two stories, both from the Post are fairly inconsequential but telling about Bill de Blasio’s troubles.
Supporters upset about his tardiness and disorganization:
The de Blasio administration attempted to keep de Blasio’s emails with five outside advisors under wraps. The administration argued that the five were “agents of the city”, even though there were no agreements of any sort to that effect, and so the Freedom of Information Law did not apply. NY1 sued for access to the emails under FOIL and won.
Right now, the top news in the New York politics is the story of the State Senate’s lulu payments, the extra money that legislators in leadership positions earn. A New York Times investigation discovered that seven Senators (three Independent Democrats and four Republicans) earned lulus for positions they did not hold. While the legal fallout is unclear, the consequences will reverberate throughout New York politics.
Thanks to his coalition with the eight-member Independent Democratic Conference, Republican Leader John Flanagan (Long Island) leads the Senate even though there are 32 Democrats and only 31 Republicans. To maintain support, he arranged for seven Republican and Independent Democratic Conference members to earn larger lulus by paying committee vice-chairs as if they chaired the committees. This continued a practice of his predecessor, Dean Skelos (since convicted for corruption). Flanagan must have figured no one would notice.
Critics say the new homeless shelters planned by Mayor Bill de Blasio break the City’s fair share rules that require services to be equitably distributed across the city. The shelters are going in area with the most homeless people, which tend to be predominately black and Latino. Residents of those neighborhoods want fewer shelters around them and more to be built in whiter, wealthier places too.
The Hotel Trades Council, the union representing hotel workers around New York City, is surprisingly powerful. It’s one of the smaller unions, with under 35,000 members, but that belies its importance. The HTC is powerful because it commands one of the most powerful political operations of any union. That makes its endorsement especially useful so Mayor Bill de Blasio is surely happy to receive it.
Who are the members of the Hotel Trades Council?
As the union for hotel workers, HTC counts 32,000 members. They work in over 300 unionized hotels, motels, casinos, and other connected businesses including parking garages and spas, according to the union. HTC formed during the Great Depression as a merger between 15 different unions, so that hotel owners couldn’t play the individual unions off one another. That worked incredibly well over the years to the point where they represent about 75% of the hotel industry in New York City.
NYC Corrections Department Commissioner Joe Ponte took a government car while on seven weeks of vacation. Then, his department spied on investigations into Rikers Island. Why is Mayor Bill de Blasio protecting him?
What’s going on with Rikers Island?
The jail on Rikers Island is widely acknowledged to be a mess, one of the most dangerous places in New York for both inmates and guards. De Blasio appointed Joseph Ponte, the former Maine prisons chief, to reform the jail system. However, if anything, things have gotten worse and last week, the State Correction Commission declared that the Rikers Island jail failed to meet minimum safety standards. Adding to the litany, the City just paid $1.2 million to two women who were raped by a Rikers guard while they were held there awaiting trial.