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Michael Bloomberg

The Empire

DiNapoli: new pension tier offers 'minimal' savings

Thursday, March 01, 2012

In case you missed it: Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, in a sit-down interview with the Empire on Wednesday, laid on his case against the push for a new pension tier. It was buried in yesterday's piece but is worth taking an isolated look at:

The Comptroller also discussed the pension reform debate. Mayor Michael Bloomberg was in Albany on Wednesday to push state legislators to pass Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposed Tier VI plan.

“As local elected leaders, we are the ones who see firsthand just how rising pension obligations are taking a bigger and bigger bite how they’re increasing our tax rates all across this state, money that’s coming out of the pockets of people who are working hard trying to make ends meet and have a future for themselves and their families.”

DiNapoli pointed out that the biggest driver of state pension costs right now is the fallout of the financial crisis which began in 2007.

“Any discussion of changing the parameters of a new tier is not going to impact on the cost that are of concern today,” he said. “We did a new Tier V just two years ago...It had minimal impact on the cost. You do a Tier VI, right--you do it today: minimal impact on the cost."

On this point, the Governor and Comptroller don’t appear to be in disagreement. Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Cuomo said “the benefit” of a new pension tier wouldn’t be felt “for years.”

“All we're doing is now changing the rules going forward,” he said. “You're not going to feel these changes for many, many years.”

DiNapoli echoed the Governor’s point on the new tier: “Until you starting hiring a sign number of people in those two tiers, it's not going to have a significant impact."

The difference? Cuomo sees the system as ultimately flawed, as it leaves tax payers on the hook, and in need of a fundamental overhaul that would semi-privatize the system. DiNapoli sees the system as essentially working, and thinks that, instead of making these fundamental decisions “at an extreme” like we are now, we should approach such a long-term situation with an equally expansive mindset.

“I think it's totally appropriate to debate the different parameters of retirement age and contribution level--that's what Tier V's discussion was all about,” he said. “Let’s have a fact-based, thoughtful, inclusive discussion. I think that's the smarter way to approach this question."

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The Empire

Bloomberg, elected leaders visit Albany to push for pension reform

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

By Karen DeWitt, New York State Public Radio Capital Bureau Chief

Katen DeWitt / NY State Public Radio

New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, along with mayors and county leaders from around New York, came to the state Capitol to support Governor Andrew Cuomo’s push for pension reform, saying they are “crashing and burning” under the rising costs.

Bloomberg, who organized the lobbying trip, says the issue is very simple—pension payments are driving municipalities to near bankruptcy.

“We really are up against it,” said Bloomberg. “We are going to have fewer services, we are going to have fewer employees, and in some cases we are going to have higher taxes if this continues.”

The Mayor and other city and county leaders from Rochester, Syracuse, Westchester and Suffolk say they’ve begun a bipartisan lobbying effort to back Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plan to enact a new benefit tier for future public workers. It would have reduced pension payments and for the first time, include an option of a 401(k)-style plan.

The mayors say they planned meetings with several key legislators to hope to convince them to adopt the governor’s plan, though Bloomberg had harsh words for the legislature’s policy on pensions over the years, which he called a “charade.”

“They keep going on and on, having both sides of every single issue,” Bloomberg said.

Bloomberg says when he first took office, annual pension costs were $1.5 billion a year for the City, now they are eight billion dollars annually.

State worker unions have opposed the proposed pension changes, saying future workers would see their retirement benefits reduced by as much as 40 percent, or, if they choose 401(k)s, will be subject to gyrations of the stock market. Governor Cuomo has said in recent days that he is “flexible” on whether the 401(k) option needs to be included in a pension reform agreement with the legislature.

“It’s not a philosophical debate,” Cuomo said Wednesday. “It’s about saving money.”

Cuomo says if the legislature can come up with an alternative plan that saves the $113 billion dollars that the governor estimates can be saved in future decades, then he’s willing to consider it.

Mayor Bloomberg says he’s not going to “complicate” Cuomo’s efforts by insisting on the 401(k) option for the pension reform plan, but he says defined benefit plans have become largely unaffordable.

Senate Republicans have said they are open to Cuomo’s pension reform changes, Assembly Democrats have not yet committed to it, and some Democrats oppose the plan.

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The Empire

Cuomo honored amid pension battle

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Governor receiving an award last year. (Huffington Post/AOL / Billy Farrell Agency)

Even as Governor Andrew Cuomo accepts an award tonight for his austerity program in Albany, he’s in the middle of a battle over his proposal to overhaul the state’s multi-billion dollar pension fund. On one side it’s been the Governor and a slew of business-backed groups, local elected officials—including Mayor Michael Bloomberg—and Republican state legislators. On the other, Cuomo has found a foil in Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, who has been one of the most vocal defenders of keeping the public pension system public, backed by the unions and, to a lesser public degree, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

The Pierre Hotel—a classy, if a bit musty hotel at the eastern corner of Central Park in Manhattan—will host the Citizens Budget Commission’s 80th Annual Awards dinner tonight. The non-profit think tank will use the opportunity to honor a man who has, over the past year, done more to advance its agenda than anyone else in New York: Governor Andrew Cuomo.

“He has articulated and pressed for many of the key items on the CBC agenda,” said CBC’s president Carol Kellermann. “He is in many ways a spokesperson for fiscal responsibility, and the wise and prudent expenditure of tax-payer funds. He had an on-time budget last year, with no tax increases, and very few ‘one-shots’—all very important items on the CBC agenda.

She went on to note that, this year, he’s included even more of the group’s agenda items in his budget, including pension reform, which has been “something that CBC was—until the stock market crash—virtually alone in advocating for.”

“When it was time to decide who would win our award this year, there really was unanimity among the trustees on the executive committee that he was the logical choice,” Kellerman said.

Cuomo accepts the award amidst what has proven to be arguably the most contentious issue he’s taken on so far with pension reform. Cuomo initially wanted to semi-privatize the pension system by introducing the possibility for new employees to put their retirement savings in 401(k)-type accounts, though, lately, he appears to be softening on the idea.

However, the Governor has keeping the pension fund as-is “could literally bankrupt the State of New York,” and that “[t]here must be pension reform in the budget.” He still supports changing the benefits future employees will receive out of the pension, as well as the amount they contribute.

The Comptroller has responded to the pressure for change in the pension system by pointing to both the benefits of the system—its better-than-most-states level of funding, the safety in pooled capital for its investors, the ability to use the fund’s investments to demand change from companies—as well as the fact the system is still rebounding from the worst recession since the Great Depression, and mostly intact. He’s called using the current fiscal state of things to justify a long-term critical overhaul of the pension system “not the smartest move.

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WNYC News

NYC Defends Monitoring of Muslims, Says It Was Legal

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly offered robust defense of a secret police department effort to monitor mosques and Muslim businesses and student groups in other states amid criticism from officials who said they were not properly informed of the operation or that the prying went too far.

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The Empire

Local lawmakers' coalition hammers DiNapoli over pension reform

Friday, February 24, 2012

Local lawmakers think that Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli is the one misinformed about pension reform.

A bipartisan coalition of local lawmakers that includes New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg are continuing to push for Governor Andrew Cuomo's proposed pension reform. And they're taking direct aim at the person seen as the biggest defender of the current pension fund system: Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

In a recent op-ed, you defended the status quo and criticized those who say that pensions are “unsustainable and unaffordable.” But we know first-hand that the facts on the ground run counter to your comments. Pension costs for New York’s localities and counties have grown by more than 630% over the last decade. These skyrocketing costs have meant less money for our schools, less money for our police departments, less money for job creation, and less money for social services. If pension costs are allowed to continue to grow – as they will in the absence meaningful reform now – the level of service cuts and tax increases that will be required to balance our local budgets in the future will be devastating. That outcome is unacceptable and entirely avoidable.

The letter is signed by the mayors of New York City, Syracuse and Jamestown, as well as the county executives of Westchester, Suffolk, Monroe, Onondaga and Oneida. In it, they argue the Governor's plan will save localities--including New York City--$79 billion over the next 30 years.

"To dismiss the importance of $79 billion in savings because it will be realized over time is simply not responsible," the letter says. "In the weeks ahead, there will undoubtedly be efforts by special interests to distort the facts and stop responsible and fair reform of our pension systems. We hope you will reject those efforts and instead be guided by the fiscal realities that local governments are facing."

02 24 DiNapoli Pensions Final

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WNYC News

Mayor Defends Surveillance of Muslim Students

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

As Mayor Michael Bloomberg defended the NYPD's surveillance of Muslim students at colleges across the region, student groups and college officials spoke out, with some calling for an investigation of the NYPD.

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The Empire

A deal gets struck on teachers, but city schools still to close

Thursday, February 16, 2012

From WNYC's Beth Fertig:

United Federation of Teachers president Michael Mulgrew says he's pleased with teacher evaluation deal negotiated by Governor Andrew Cuomo. The plan allows for teachers with bad ratings to have an independent validator give them assistance. A limited number of teachers will also be allowed to have a third party decide if they deserve a poor rating.

But Mulgrew is still upset that Mayor Bloomberg wants to close 33 struggling schools and reopen them, in order to replace half their teachers. He says some of them are improving.

" If he tells us that he'd rather close schools that are doing well with the staff inside them, then it's going to be a big challenge for us to get to an agreement," Mulgrew said.

The city and the union have until next January to reach a final agreement. But the mayor says he needs to act now with respect to those 33 schools because the teacher evaluation system won't take effect fast enough.

His plan was also designed at winning back $58 million in federal grants the city lost for struggling schools when it didn't enact a teacher evaluation system by 2012.

More on the city's decision, post-agreement, to continue school closing plans, from SchoolBook's Anna Phillips:

The original reason behind Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s plans to close and reopen 33 struggling schools, replacing half of the staff, was that the city’s teachers union would not agree to a new teacher evaluation system required under those schools’ improvement plans.

But on Thursday, after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced that the sides had reached an agreement, the mayor said he would go forward with plans to close the schools anyway.

The mayor’s argument: time is of the essence. If the city and teachers’ union finalize a new teacher evaluation system within a year, it will still be two years before teachers can receive two ineffective ratings, positioning them for dismissal. That timeline would not remove schools’ worst teachers quickly enough, the mayor said.

“It would be unconscionable for us to sit around for two years and do nothing,” the mayor said at a news conference at City Hall shortly after the governor’s announcement.

Read the rest of the article here.

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The Empire

Reflecting on the Bloomberg legacy on his 70th birthday

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Courtesy of the mayors office

Joyce Purnick--WNYC political analyst, New York Times columnist and the author ofa Michael Bloomberg biography--has a piece up on the station's site today looking at the legacy of Mayor Mike Bloomberg as he turns 70:

Because of his wealth, Bloomberg was always more independent than politicians who have to worry about campaign contributions and support from special interests, ranging from real estate developers to unions. He was never one to pull many punches. But, especially when he was considering a run for the presidency during his second term, the mayor was sometimes cautious and did make some accommodations. He was not notably tough on municipal unions, did not champion same-sex marriage for many years though most assumed he favored the concept, knowing his politics.

Now, he is going for broke. His third term ends December 31, 2013, and he is not about to run for president this year, much less four years from now. There is nothing to hold him back, and Bloomberg not only wants to “make a difference” as he says so often, but, clearly, to influence his place in history.

Read the full article on the WNYC website here.

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WNYC News

Analysis | Looking Ahead as Mayor Michael Bloomberg Celebrates Turning 70

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A birthday is just a birthday. The mayor today is who he was yesterday and the day before. But it is also true that in recent months, he has refined his act, been even more dismissive of political considerations than he was before — probably not because of his age, but because he has less than two years left in office. That makes this legacy time.

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WNYC News

NYC, Boston Mayors Team Up for Gun Control Ad

Saturday, February 04, 2012

The mayors of New York City and Boston will be rooting for different teams on Super Bowl Sunday, but they're on the same side when it comes to stricter gun-control laws.

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WNYC News

Mayor Michael Bloomberg: City Earnings Assumptions Are 'Laughable'

Friday, February 03, 2012

Mayor Michael Bloomberg says the earnings assumptions New York City is using for its pension funds are "laughable."

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WNYC News

Bloomberg Says He'll Close Budget Gap Without Taxes, Teacher Layoffs

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Mayor Michael Bloomberg unveiled his $68.7 billion budget proposal on Thursday —  saying there would be no tax increases and no layoffs of teachers or uniformed workers but calling for the elimination of 20 fire companies and some cuts to the arts.

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The Empire

From WNYC: Previewing Bloomberg's budget preview

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Getty

Mayor Michael Bloomberg will unveil his budget proposal for next year on Thursday that will tackle what his administration has calculated is a projected $2 billion budget gap without raising taxes. But how big that budget gap actually is remains debatable.

A top Bloomberg budget official once said budgeting is all about managing expectations. And throughout the mayor's tenure he has done that masterfully, predicting dire consequences like teacher layoffs, that didn't materialize

Click here to read more.

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WNYC News

Bloomberg's Budget Plan: What to Expect

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Mayor Michael Bloomberg will unveil his budget proposal for next year on Thursday that will tackle what his administration has calculated is a projected $2 billion budget gap without raising taxes. But how big that budget gap actually is remains debatable.

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WNYC News

Bloomberg Says He'll Close Budget Gap Without Taxes

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

The draft Bloomberg is expected to release Thursday will close an anticipated $2 billion gap but won't include any taxes, his spokesman said.

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WNYC News

Mayor Michael Bloomberg Continues to Defend NYPD Spokesman Paul Browne Over Anti-Muslim Film

Monday, January 30, 2012

Mayor Michael Bloomberg continued to defend NYPD spokesman Paul Browne Monday — days after the top police aide was forced to backpedal on remarks when it was revealed that nearly 1,500 officers were shown an anti-Muslim film.

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WNYC News

Mayor Bloomberg: No NYC Parade for Iraq War Vets

Friday, January 27, 2012

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said there are no plans for a parade for Iraq War veterans in the near future because of objections voiced by military officials.

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The Takeaway

NYPD Speaks About Use of Anti-Muslim Video

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

An 80-minute movie called "The Third Jihad," produced by the Clarion Fund, asserts that a vast number of radical Islamic forces exist in the U.S. and are preparing a violent jihad against America. Last January, the NYPD revealed that this direct-to-DVD movie had been shown once during anti-terrorism officer training. But this week, following a freedom of information request, the Brennan Center for Justice revealed that the video may have been viewed by nearly 1,500 officers during training breaks as well.

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WNYC News

NYPD Played Controversial Anti-Muslim Film More Than First Indicated

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The NYPD showed a controversial film about Islam to more officers than it originally indicated, according to police documents obtained by NYU's Brennan Center for Justice.

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