Julissa Ferreras-Copeland with her then-newborn son and husband.

Pol Bows Out to Spend Time with Family… and Means It

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.

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Bill de Blasio and Melissa Mark-Viverito shake on the New York City budget deal.

What’s in New York City’s New Budget for 2017-2018?

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.

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Why is Joe Ponte still in charge of the Rikers Island jail?

Why Does Joe Ponte Still Have a Job Running Rikers Island?

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.

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New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio

What’s in de Blasio’s 2017-2018 New York City Budget Proposal

Yesterday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio released his 2017-2018 budget proposal. The City Council will negotiate with the mayor on the new New York City budget and will need to reach an agreement before the fiscal year is over on June 30th.

This post will be updated as more information comes out.

Give me the headlines

What are people saying about the budget?

Citizens Budget Commission President Carol Kellermann: The budget “should have exhibited more spending restraint.” The new spending “does not demonstrate strategic and sensible prioritization of the City’s investments.” David Jones, director of the Community Service Society and de Blasio’s appointee to the MTA board, told AMNewYork: “Fair Fares will go on. I will fight it until my very last breath. We’re taking this fight on for as many years — I’m on the board until 2020. So they’re going to be hearing from me for a long time.” Adriene Holder, Legal Aid Society: “Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Mayor de Blasio set a bold example for other sanctuaries across the nation to model – we and our clients laud their leadership. City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito: The Council “remains concerned that the Mayor’s proposal does not increase the City’s reserves.” City Council Finance Committee Chair Julissa Ferreras-Copeland commented to Politico: De Blasio “very clearly stated that he felt that Trump’s positions have mostly been overturned by the courts, so he doesn’t necessarily feel that we will feel the impact in the way that was expected. He’s going to wait until the November plan is out to see if there needs to be adjustments — something that was a bit striking.” City Council Member Brad Lander: “Save for a rainy day, yes, we are doing that. But make preemptive cuts to deny services to New Yorkers, no way.” Glenn Martin, President of JustLeadershipUSA, one of the leaders of the campaign to close Rikers Island, said the budget proves the “continued absence of a concrete plan for closing Rikers.” GOP Mayoral candidate Paul Massey: “Bill de Blasio is a terrible manager, so as spending has gone up, the quality of services has gone down.”

Mayor de Blasio’s solution to every problem is tax & spend. Instead of fixing failed programs, he throws good $ after bad. We need results!

— Nicole Malliotakis (@NMalliotakis) April 26, 2017

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Will New York Be a Sanctuary for Immigrants?

UPDATE: As of May 2017, Congress chose not to pass legislation that would have allowed Trump to defund sanctuary cities.

Original story

This week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions threatened to take back $4 billion in federal aid to sanctuary cities, including New York City, Syracuse, Ithaca, and Rochester. Those cities have said they will not help Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) enforce federal immigration laws.

What’s the big deal?

Over 5 million immigrants were deported under Obama but his administration focused on criminals and people caught crossing the border. While campaigning, President Donald Trump criticized this focus and promised to create a “deportation force” to remove undocumented immigrants. In February, he issued rules to make it easier for ICE to deport immigrants (both documented and undocumented), including people who hadn’t committed a serious crime. This even included people who had filed for DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, under Obama. Also called Dreamers, these are people who were born abroad but arrived in the US as children and grew up here. Trump’s so-called “Muslim bans” on travelers from several majority-Muslim Middle Eastern countries have also fueled this alarm, though court orders have stopped those for the moment.

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