Bill de Blasio

De Blasio Continues Defense Of Fundraising Activities

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio in an interview on WNYC this morning reiterated his defense of his fundraising activities, which have fallen under the scrutiny of state and federal investigators.

At the same time, de Blasio suggested there was a political motivation behind the recommendation by the prosecution referral made by the chief enforcement counsel at the state Board of Elections. Risa Sugarman, an appointee of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, concluded in a memorandum de Blasio’s political team violated campaign finance laws when aiding Senate Democrats’ efforts in taking over the chamber in 2014.

“Everything was done very carefully, meticulously, with legal guidance all along the way, and consistent with what so many other people have done,” de Blasio said. “So that’s why I’m saying it’s very interesting that now it becomes a subject of these questions.”

De Blasio has been at odds with both Cuomo as well as Senate Republicans since taking office in 2011.

Aides to the mayor, in aiding Democratic candidates, directed large-dollar contributions to county Democratic committees in upstate races, which then turned around and transferred the money to individual candidates.

The practice is a commonplace one, but de Blasio’s push was done a large-scale project that hadn’t been seen before.

“I think we have to figure out some of the motivations behind it, because if we specifically followed every step along the way — legal guidance — and did what other mayors and other leaders have done for years and years under the laws of this state, following the letter and spirit of the law,” de Blasio said. “Well, that is how we are supposed to comport ourselves.”

Subpoenas have been issued to the mayor’s top political advisor, Emma Wolfe, as well as his campaign fundraiser, Ross Offinger, as well as outside political consultants with ties to de Blasio.

De Blasio Says He’s Cooperating With Federal Investigation

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio insisted Thursday his administration was cooperating with an ongoing federal and state investigation into his fundraising activities.

His comments to reporters in New York City come a day after top advisors to the mayor, including City Hall itself, were issued subpoenas as part of the ongoing inquiry.

“We hold ourselves to the highest standard of integrity. Everything we have done from the beginning is legal and appropriate,” de Blsaio said. “There’s an investigation going on. We are going to fully cooperate with that investigation.”

The investigation stems in part from de Blasio’s efforts in 2014 to help Democrats gain control of the state Senate.

Scrutiny is being placed on the common fundraising tactic of county committees receiving large contributions and then passing the money along to Democratic Senate candidates in an apparent effort to avoid fundraising limits. A committee backed by de Blasio’s political supporters, the Campaign For One New York, is also being eyed by investigators.

“We look forward to the speedy conclusion of it,” the mayor saod. “But we will fully cooperate. But since there is an investigation, I can’t go into any detail. That’s an ongoing process.”

The mayor himself has not been issued a subpoena.

However, a consulting firm with close ties to the mayor, Berlin Rosen, was issued a subpoena, including top political advisor Emma Wolfe.

NYPIRG: Reinstate Purged Voters

The New York Public Interest Research Group is calling for the reinstatement of more than 126,000 voters who were purged from voter rolls ahead of New York’s presidential primaries last Tuesday.

“Too many questions remain about this purge,” NYPIRG said. “How could one person order the purging of so many in violation of State Law. Who else knew? What protocols were either not in place or not followed to prevent this scandal?”

In a statement, the good-government group said the city and state investigations should weigh whether to bring criminal charges in the incident.

“The Board of Elections must release a step-by-step uniform statement detailing exactly how each of their five borough offices conducts voter purges before any further action is taken,” the group said. “A similar statement should be provided concerning voter registration protocols and procedures for placing voters on the ‘inactive list.’”

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman last week announced he was launching an investigation into the removal of the voters from the rolls, which was city Board of Elections officials now say was done through a clerical error. The chief clerk at the board’s offices in Brooklyn has since been removed.

City Comptroller Scott Stringer, too, is auditing the much-maligned city Board of Elections over the matter.

Meanwhile, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Monday his administration was making $20 million available to the city Board of Elections in order to modernize its training and notification systems.

“The Board of Elections is an outdated organization in dire need of modernization – and we need to make these changes now,” de Blasio said in a statement. “We cannot allow a single voter to be disenfranchised because of the Board of Elections’ outdated operations. These common-sense reforms will bring much-needed transparency, modernize practices, and help ensure we do not experience an election day like last week’s again.”

De Blasio: Senate Must ‘Uphold Its Responsibility’

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called President Obama’s nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court a “highly qualified” selection and called on the U.S. Senate to “uphold its own responsibility” and consider the nomination.

“President Obama fulfilled his responsibility and nominated a highly qualified federal judge, Merrick Garland, to the Supreme Court,” de Blasio said. “Now, the Senate must uphold its own responsibility – a responsibility that should and must be above politics. Too much hangs in the balance: the future of immigrant families; a woman’s right to choose; affordable health care; labor protections; our environment; and so much more. It’s now time for the Senate to do its job: consider and vote on the President’s nominee without obstruction or delay.”

Obama on Wednesday announced he is nominating U.S. Judge Merrick Garland for the vacancy on the court created by the death of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia last month.

Republicans in the U.S. Senate have said the nomination should be left up to the next president and do not plan to hold nomination hearings.

Senate GOP Rejects Mayoral Control Extension

Senate Republicans rejected a proposed three-year extension of mayoral control of New York City schools in a one-house budget resolution and called for hearings on the issue.

The GOP conference — which has been at odds with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, a liberal Democrat who in 2014 sought to flip the chamber to Democratic control — rejected the extension “without prejudice” according, to the resolution’s language.

“Prior to granting any significant extension of this authority, the Senate believes public hearings should be held to assess the current structure and identify any possible areas of improvement including but not limited to creating heightened parental involvement in Community Education Councils and the Panel for Education Policy,” the resolution states.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who had been a financial backer of the Senate Republicans’ political efforts, received multiple mayoral control extensions during his time in office.

But at the same time, it’s noted in the Senate resolution during the last “significant extension” in mayoral control in 2009, the Legislature held five hearings on the issue.

De Blasio once again this session will have to seek a retention of mayoral control of city schools after Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature approved a 12-month extension of the policy.

De Blasio Grilled On Tax Cap For New York City

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio traveled to Albany to talk about the potential cuts in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed budget that would impact the Medicaid program and the City University of New York.

Instead, the mayor was grilled in a five-hour session by more than a half dozen state lawmakers on placing a property tax cap on New York City.

“The middle class is leaving in leaps and bounds,” said Republican Sen. Andrew Lanza of Staten Island. “I see that on Staten Island. This is going on long before you became mayor.”

The tax cap talk at the joint legislative hearing on the state budget and its impact on local governments was dovetailed by the GOP-led Senate approving, once again, a cap on property tax increases for New York City.

The hearing on Tuesday is part of “tin cup day” at the Capitol, in which local government officials — namely the mayors of the state’s largest cities — comment on the proposed state budget.

Every New York City mayor’s testimony looms large each year. De Blasio’s has been closely watched, given the public disagreements he has had with Cuomo and the animosity with Senate Republicans.

But the questions over the tax cap weren’t just limited to Senate Republicans. Democratic Sen. Tim Kennedy, as did Sen. Diane Savino, a member of the Independent Democratic Conference, quizzed the mayor on the tax cap.

Never mind that de Blasio insisted multiple times that he has no plans to draw more revenue from the tax by increasing the rate and that his proposed budget itself increases spending by less than 1 percent.

“I’m telling the people up front that I’m working everyday on property taxes,” de Blasio told Lanza. “One thing I’m adamant about is presenting budgets that do no include a property tax increase.”

The mayor, however, reiterated multiple times during the course of his testimony that he remains philosophically opposed to the measure.

“I don’t agree with it philosophically and practically as well,” he said.

The questioning on the tax cap proposal was so relentless that it clearly frustrated the mayor’s aides.

“Can someone explain to me why the City has spent four hours talking about property taxes today in Albany?” tweeted de Blasio spokeswoman Karen Hinton.

The state has had a cap on local and school property taxes in place since 2011. The measure limits levy increases to 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower. This year the cap is unexpected to allow for an increase of less than 1 percent, leading to some school and local government officials to call for more leeway in the measure.

But supporters of the cap, including Cuomo, say the cap is working as it was intended to do: Limit the growth and cost of local government on property and homeowners.

During his testimony, de Blasio disagreed with the notion that middle class property owners were being driven out of the city.

“We are seeing a number of people coming into our city I would certainly not define as rich,” he said. “I don’t think it’s fair to say every net new resident we have is a wealthy person.”

The New York City cap approved by the Senate on Tuesday would allow for a supermajority on the city Council to override the measure in the event of an emergency, a provision de Blasio also questioned.

“A supermajority is not easy to come by and no one likes to increase property taxes,” he said.

At the same time, Republicans advanced an argument that Cuomo himself had initially made: The city should start to take on more costs associated with these programs. Cuomo has since said he is willing to work with the city to find efficiencies in spending.

Republican lawmakers questioned de Blasio’s overall argument regarding a cost shift proposed by the governor in the $154 billion budget for CUNY and Medicaid.

“The bottom line is that the city is awash in money right now,” said Sen. Cathy Young, a Republican who chairs the Senate’s Finance Committee.

At one point, Young even used an analogy that he been deployed by a Cuomo budget spokesman about an uncle financing a mortgage.

At the end of his testimony, de Blasio sought to steer the conversation back to the cost shift in Cuomo’s budget and a relative lack of public information.

“Overall,” de Blasio said, “there’s just a lot of elements of this budget that we don’t have the full facts on.”

Poll: De Blasio Handling Homeless Better Than Cuomo

de blasio cuomo 1More New York City voters think Mayor Bill de Blasio is doing a better job on the issue of homelessness than Governor Andrew Cuomo, according to a new Quinnipiac poll released today. That’s despite an executive order the governor implemented last year giving municipalities authority to provide shelter to homeless individuals during extreme weather conditions.

The poll found that 33 percent of NYC voters believe the mayor is handling the issue better, while 28 percent side with the governor. The remaining slate of voters – 39 percent – are undecided on the issue.

Good news for both Governor Cuomo and the mayor: the poll found that the approval rating for both executives has sneaked up since October. Governor Cuomo is up two points, bringing his approval rating 65 – 29. Mayor de Blasio is up five points with an approval rating of 50 – 42.

An issue sure to help the governor among New York City voters is a hike in the state’s minimum wage. The poll found that three out of four New York City voters support raising the minimum wage to $15 by 2018.

De Blasio Fundraises Off Cruz’s #NewYorkValues

deBlasioAfter criticizing Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz’s knock on Donald Trump’s “New York values” Mayor Bill de Blasio is fundraising off the back and forth.

“With your support we made history in 2013,” de Blasio writes in the fundraising appeal sent Tuesday morning. “Since then I’ve been working hard to stand up for New York values every day. We created universal pre-K for every eligible child in the City, expanded after school and passed the first ever rent freeze for our tenants.”

Cruz squared off last week in a GOP presidential debate against New York businessman Donald Trump, who the Texas senator is in an increasingly tight race with for the first-in-the-nation voting in Iowa on Feb. 1.

In the debate, Cruz doubled-down on Trump’s “New York values” which he framed as being about big money, big media and socially liberal values on abortion.

Trump responded by pointing to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

But soon, Trump’s Democratic critics, including de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo were in the mix criticizing Cruz’s comments as well.

“Here’s what Ted Cruz doesn’t understand about us: we are proud of our New York values,” de Blasio wrote in the fundraising email. “They start with celebrating our diversity, taking care of each other, and working to make New York a fairer city for all of our citizens.”

Least anyone be confused that he’s sticking up for Trump — whose comments on Muslim and immigration have been blasted by Democrats and Republicans alike — de Blasio added there’s a lot of things Trump has said that “deserve condemnation.”

“This wasn’t just an attack on The Donald – it was an attack on the 8.4 million men and women I’m proud to represent as Mayor.”

Cruz has responded to calls from Cuomo and de Blasio that he apologize with a snarky list of “apologies” to New Yorkers.

WFP Sides With de Blasio in Budget Battle

The Working Families Party is siding with NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio in his looming budget battle with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, dinging the governor for undercutting progressive policy proposals with “drastic” cuts to Medicaid, CUNY and more that will leave the city with a close to $1 billion shortfall by the fiscal year 2017.

The WFP, which has long been a booster and supporter of de Blasio and hasn’t always seen eye-to-eye with the governor, politically speaking, issued a statement from its state director, Bill Lipton, who was careful to praise Cuomo for focusing on “crucial issues” like a statewide $15-an-hour minimum wage, paid family leave, universal pre-K and supportive housing, noting that the party has been organizing on these fronts for some time.

But Lipton also said there is “more to do,” like restoring “progressivity” to the state’s tax code, closing the carried interest tax loophole, and investing in a new “social contract” on public education that ensures full funding for schools – including universal pre-K (an early de Blasio priority) – and restoration to the public university system to pre-recession levels.

The labor-backed party also would like to see Cuomo do more on criminal justice reform and to address climate change, though Lipton allowed he has made “significant strides” on those issues.

When it comes to New York City and the cuts the governor proposed, Lipton deemed this a “core leadership test” on which the governor “fell short.”

“He had a chance to take the high road and unite New Yorkers across our great state,” Lipton continued. “Instead, he chose to single out New York City for drastic cuts to CUNY, Medicaid and more that could impact hundreds of thousands of hard working families. It’s hard to understand why he would diminish a speech with such important progressive milestones.”

Earlier today, de Blasio vowed to fight the cuts Cuomo proposed “by any means necessary,” saying he would seek support from both houses of the state Legislature in that quest.

Of course, he might have some trouble in the GOP-controlled state Senate, where majority lawmakers aren’t particularly fond of the mayor, thanks to his support in 2014 of the Democrats’ failed attempt to re-take control of the chamber. And there has been bad blood between de Blasio and his fellow Democrats in the Assembly, too, though the mayor has been trying to repair that relationship of late.

Cuomo, meanwhile, rejected the claims that his budget proposal hurts New York City, saying it’s “absurd” to expect that increases in funding to fight homelessness and and expand infrastructure wouldn’t require spending offsets elsewhere.

De Blasio Blasts Lack Of Federal Help For Puerto Rico

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio blasted on Wednesday federal inaction when it comes to helping Puerto Rico straighten out its dire financial situation.

At the moment, no plan was included in an omnibus spending bill backed by the House of Representatives designed to aid Puerto Rico, which could lead to one of the largest government defaults in U.S. history.

“The omnibus bill released last night lets down 3.5 million of our fellow Americans living in Puerto Rico and 5 million more stateside, including 700,000 in New York City,” de Blasio said. “While the bill includes two health related provisions that will help the Commonwealth, it’s lacking the comprehensive action needed to prevent this fiscal crisis from turning into a humanitarian one. We have a moral obligation to our fellow American citizens in Puerto Rico.”

The mayor singled out nearly every elected official who has worked on the issue, save for Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whose staff has visited the commonwealth multiple times in the last several weeks. Cuomo, who traveled to Puerto Rico earlier this year, has said helping Puerto Rico through its financial crisis is a top priority for New York.

“I’ll continue to partner with Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Congressmembers Velázquez and Serrano, Senator Schumer, and our entire delegation in pursuit of the federal action that is so urgently needed,” he said.

Cuomo and de Blasio this month did sit down for a private dinner at a Manhattan restaurant, but all accounts indicate neither man was ready to bury the hatchet on their feud.