Bill de Blasio

Mayoral Control ‘In Flux’

Extending mayoral control of New York City schools is “in flux” two days before the scheduled end of the legislative session, Senate Education Committee Chairman Carl Marcellino said earlier on Tuesday.

State lawmakers appeared to make little public headway on how long to extend the program, which Assembly Democrats previously approved for a three-year extension, a bill that is backed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Senate Republicans had previously supported another 12-month extension of mayoral control, but on Monday night submitted changes that would provide a three-year deadline, along with the education tax credit, which is geared toward private schools, as well as a range of other provisions.

Assembly Democrats deemed the proposals dead on arrival.

“The Senate has the right to put in whatever bills they want to,” Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said. “I’ll be clear: Those proposals are a non-starter for us, so to me it was a waste of time to put those proposals in.”

Complicating matters has been the personal antipathy Senate Republicans hold for new York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. The conference last month submitted legislation that would require Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office to oversee the program. Cuomo and de Blasio have both feuded as well.

De Blasio in May traveled to Albany to defend his stewardship of mayoral control, but Majority Leader John Flanagan criticized his grasp of the issues.

Rank-and-file Republicans critical of de Blasio, too, signaled they were opposed to extending it under de Blasio.

“I could care less if it’s one year or three years,” said Sen. Terrence Murphy. “I still don’t trust Mayor Bill de Blasio.”

De Blasio: Mayoral Control In Senate’s Lap

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday pushed back against Senate Republicans for criticizing his decision not to appear at a hearing on the future of mayoral control of city schools.

In an interview with Brian Lehrer on WNYC, de Blasio said the issue was now essentially up to the GOP-led Senate after the Democratic-controlled Assembly approved a three-year extension of the program this week.

The mayor also noted he sat for hours of questions at a public hearing on mayoral control in Albany that was a largely cordial event.

“I think the fact that I went up there to Albany to spend four hours with them shows plenty of respect,” de Blasio said, “and now it is time for the Senate to make a decision.”

Senate Republicans are holding a second hearing today on mayoral control in New York City after Majority Leader John Flanagan was deeply critical of the appearance de Blasio put in at the Albany hearing earlier this month.

Republicans in the Senate have been previously at odds with de Blasio, but the dispute has taken on a more pronounced posture in recent weeks as the mayor’s fundraising activities on behalf of Senate Democrats in 2014 have come under scrutiny by federal investigators.

In the interview, de Blasio pointed out his predecessors — Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg — received considerably less heat over the program’s renewal.

“I hope that the State Senate will listen to the voices of Republicans and Democrats, listen to my two predessesors, Michael Bloomberg and Rudy Guiliani who agree as I do that we need mayoral control of education, listen to over 100 prominent business leaders who yesterday signed onto a letter calling for renewal of mayoral control,” he said.

“I hope the State Senate Republicans are listening to all those facts and they’ll make the right decision here in the name of the kids of our City. And that’s really what it should be about.”

Flanagan “No Closer To Signing Off” on Mayoral Control Extension

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan says he’s not convinced lawmakers should extend mayoral control of New York City schools for Mayor Bill de Blasio.

In a statement released Thursday afternoon, Flanagan said he had reviewed Wednesday’s Senate hearing on the issue and wasn’t impressed with the mayor’s testimony.

“Too often, the Mayor showed a disturbing lack of personal knowledge about the City schools,” Flanagan said in a statement. “In addition, he has left too many unanswered questions and failed to provide specifics on many of the issues raised by my colleagues on both sides of the aisle.  Until that occurs, I will not entrust this Mayor with the awesome responsibility of operating the New York City school system.”

Lawmakers voted in 2015 to extend mayoral control for one year, with an expiration date at the end of June. Senate Deputy Majority Leader John DeFrancisco suggested on Capital Tonight last night that Republicans would approve an extension, though the length of which is unclear.

De Blasio had previously requested a permanent extension to mayoral control, then offered a three-year extension to lawmakers as a compromise. Neither idea made it to the floor.

The mayor is sitting in hot water with Senate Republicans for the time being after an elections probe into his 2014 effort to help Democrats win back the chamber. De Blasio had a tense exchange with at least one Senate Republican during yesterday’s hearing.

The Senate will hold another public hearing on mayoral control on May 19 in New York City. In his statement, Flanagan encouraged the mayor to return for a second round.

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.