Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer -- a likely 2013 New York mayoral candidate -- put transit squarely in the middle of the 2013 debate Tuesday by proposing a reinstatement of the commuter tax and an infrastructure bank to fund long term capital projects, including more rapid buses in the outer boroughs and a subway from Brooklyn to the Bronx.
"I believe we need to get back to an era in which public transportation is acknowledged as an essential civil responsibility," Stringer said in a speech to the Association for a Better New York. "Right alongside public safety and education."
Stringer wants to re-jigger the way capital construction is financed, setting up an infrastructure bank seeded by the NY Mortgage recording tax, which now funds transit operations.
But to do that, he needs a replacement source of funds for transit operations, and he's looking to the restored commuter tax to supply more than $700 million a year to do that.
Still, the fate of the commuter tax, which would be borne exclusively by suburbanites, is cloudy at best, and it's already being blasted by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who's calling it "penny-wise and pound-foolish."
And in supporting the commuter tax, Stringer is backing away from his previous support of congestion charging. The commuter tax would only affect suburbanites, who won't vote for the next mayor, while a congestion charge would hit some city residents.
The commuter tax -- a 0.45 percent surcharge on income -- died in 1999 when Democratic Assembly member Sheldon Silver brokered a deal to eliminate the tax in order to help a Democrat win a special Senate election in Orange County. The Democrat lost. The tax was detested by suburbanites.
But Stringer says he thinks he can get it passed. "Every Mayor, when they get elected, gets one big ticket from Albany," Stringer said in a question-and-answer session after Tuesday's speech. " Mayor Bloomberg got mayoral control of the school system. Other mayors came up and asked for something from Albany that can change the discourse in this city. I believe the next mayor can go to Albany, rearrange the commuter tax, build a partnership with suburban elected officials, and finally finally finally get this transit system on sound footing because this is not just a New York City issue, it’s a regional issue. And if we flounder, we could take our economy with us, and that’s the argument we have to make."
In 2008, a congestion charging plan backed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg passed the New York City Council, but died in the legislature, where it found little support.
Congestion charging is “our last best chance to reduce the number of cars and trucks on our streets, lessen the business costs associated with congestion, reduce asthma rates, build new mass transit, and prepare New York City for another million residents," Stringer testified in 2008.
But Stringer stopped short of endorsing the latest congestion charging plan -- Sam Schwartz's "Fair Plan" -- which would charge drivers entering Manhattan while lowering some other tolls around the city. Stringer said that was an idea that deserves "discussion." His prepared remarks said "serious consideration."
When questioned after the speech, Stringer said "I am supporting my plan...I’m not endorsing the Sam Schwartz plan. I’m not endorsing those ideas today, but I wanted to say to people, elected officials, potential candidates, why don’t we dig in and have a real discussion and not be afraid to talk about new ideas?"
Stringer's press people were also quite clear that Stringer does not favor congestion charging -- although he doesn't not support it either.
The MTA stopped short of supporting Stringer's call for a commuter tax, but spokesman Adam Lisberg said "we're glad that he’s started this conversation about how to get more funding for the MTA, because the MTA needs money."
Neither the congestion charge nor the commuter tax have much support in Albany. Governor Andrew Cuomo, when asked about the congestion charge while campaigning for Governor, called it " moot." He's shown a distinct distaste for taxes -- especially dedicated transit taxes -- this year eliminating a dedicated tax surcharge for the MTA paid by suburbanites.
In supporting a commuter tax over the congestion charge, Stringer is hewing a politically less treacherous route -- he's not pushing for a tax or a toll that some outer borough residents detest. No constituents of Stringers, should he be elected mayor, would be affected by the commuter tax.
Of the other 2013 candidates for Mayor, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn helped steer the congestion charge through the city council -- where Public Advocate Bill Di Blasio, then a council member, voted against it. City Comptroller Bill Thompson, a 2009 mayoral candidate, opposed congestion charging, but supported more expensive registration fees for heavier cars.
Former Congressman Anthony Weiner, before he withdrew from the 2009 Mayor's race, supported congestion charging -- but only for people who didn't live in New York.
In 2005, no Democratic candidates for mayor supported congestion charging. I know, because I asked them about it during the primary debate.
Monday, April 16, 2012
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, a likely 2013 candidate for mayor, is out with his first big policy proposal — and it's to add a variety of taxes to fund transit. In a speech to be delivered to the Association for a Better New York Tuesday morning, Stringer is proposing reviving the commuter tax, killed in 1999, to fund faster buses and a new subway line from Brooklyn to the Bronx.
Monday, April 16, 2012
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer is the first likely 2013 New York mayoral candidate out of the box with a detailed plan for financing the city's transit system. It's a a mix of solutions -- but the gist is this, there should be more financing for transit, and not just from transit riders.
Instead, Stringer wants to bring back the commuter tax, killed by Albany over a decade ago, as well as take a fresh look at congestion charging, bridge tolls, and other sources of funds for transit.
All of the taxes and fees would require approval by state lawmakers and Governor Cuomo. In the past, leaders of both parties and Governor Cuomo have not supported congestion charging, and Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver brokered the deal that killed the commuter tax.
Stringer's proposals, to be delivered at a speech to the Association for Better New York Tuesday morning, now set a bar for the other candidates -- City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Public Advocate Bill DeBlasio, and former City Comptroller William Thompson.
Other than Mayor Bloomberg's congestion pricing proposal, transit funding has not been a big part of mayoral campaigns in the past. Stringer's speech is a sign that that there will be more discussion to come in the next 19 months.
Among his proposed solutions:
- Dedicate the NY Mortgage Recording Tax, which currently funds transit operating expenses, to transit capital expenses. Stringer says the tax fluctuates too much to be a reliable source of year-to-year funds.
- Instead, he wants to use the tax as the basis for a transit infrastructure fund, to draw in in union and other pension investments.
- To replace the loss of the recording tax to the operating funds, he suggests a number of possible funding sources.
- Bridge tolls, a la the 2010 Ravitch Plan.
- A congestion charge, a la the Sam Schwartz "Fair Plan"
- Letting the MTA borrow against increased property tax revenue that comes when new subway stations are built.
- A restoration of the commuter tax, which was repealed by the state legislature in 1999.
Stringer says he'd spend the money on more bus rapid transit, light rail on 42nd street, and connecting Red Hook Brooklyn to the Navy Yard, an AirTrain to LaGuardia, and an "X" subway line connecting Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx.
Monday, April 16, 2012
By Brigid Bergin : Reporter
Assemblywoman Grace Meng got the unified endorsement of four probable 2013 mayoral candidates - Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, Comptroller John Liu, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, and former comptroller Bill Thompson - for her Congressional campaign.
Thursday, March 22, 2012
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer introduced legislation Wednesday to make it illegal for employers to discriminate against job-seekers who are our of work.
Tuesday, January 31, 2012
By Beth Fertig
A week before the city's Panel for Educational Policy is scheduled to vote on plans to shrink or phase-out 25 more struggling schools, four potential mayoral contenders joined opponents of the mayor's school reform policies at a news event on the steps of City Hall.
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
The city and state’s semi-annual campaign finance filings were due this week. In the city, the Mayoral candidates fiscal pictures were the primary focus. As Mirela Iverac reported for WNYC yesterday, City Council speaker Christine Quinn continued to dominate her potential rivals for the Democratic nod. The Speaker is now quickly approaching a point of inertia after becoming the first candidate to raise more than what the campaign finance spending limit during a primary would allow. Quinn’s haul over the last six months was more than $482,000.
But the real story here starts with John Liu, who observers were watching to see how much an impact the fundraising scandal has hurt his efforts. The answer, it seems, is significantly.
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Crain's Insider this morning has an interesting piece up that looks at the practice of bundling among the likely 2013 Mayoral candidates. As you may recall, Comptroller John Liu has been in the crosshairs with editorial boards and reporters after the most recent campaign bundler--a person who recruits donors for a campaign--was arrested by the Feds for illegally funneling large sums into Liu's war chest.
But, as Crain's Insider reporters Jeremy Smerd and Shane Dixon Kavanaugh report, Liu is not alone. They take aim at former city Comptroller and 2009 Democratic Mayoral candidate Bill Thompson and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio in particular for what they say are improbably low numbers of bundlers.
Campaign Finance Board filings show a mere nine bundlers who have raised just $38,825 of the nearly $3 million de Blasio has brought in during his past two campaigns. Thompson has reported 11 bundlers contributing $128,733 of the $6.5 million he's amassed in two runs for mayor.
In contrast, Council Speaker Chris Quinn has listed 107 bundlers contributing nearly $1.9 million. Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer's 114 reported bundlers have raised $994,363.
Political fundraisers and campaign finance experts question the number of intermediaries reported by de Blasio and Thompson. “It's just not possible,” said one who has worked on a number of citywide races. “To raise millions of dollars with so few bundlers—it's an impossible feat.”
De Blasio in particular appears to have under-reported his bundlers. According to the article, his campaign will be revising their filings, adding around 20 new bundlers. There has been no indication of malfeasance or illegal behavior by any of the other 2013 hopefuls' donors, but the reality is that the process of bundling--and the outsized cash it can create thanks to the city's generous public financing of campaigns--is now receiving much greater scrutiny than before.
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
City and State elected officials stood with labor leaders outside the State Supreme Court in Lower Manhattan—near where the arrested Occupy Wall Street protesters are being processed—to decry Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s eviction of protesters early this morning in Zuccotti Park and affirm the status of the movement as far from over.
“Today is not the end. Today is in fact just the beginning,” Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer told those assembled.
“What happened this morning was wrong. It was unnecessary. It was provocative. And it will only create more conflict,” said Public Advocate Bill de Blasio. “Other cities have managed to find a positive resolution, including looking at alternative sites [for the demonstrations]. The Mayor and his team never have done that. And that’s a mistake.”
Wednesday, October 05, 2011
ICYMI: screen starlet, and born-and-bred Manhattanite, Scarlet Johansson hosted a fundraiser for Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer's 2013 mayoral bid earlier this week. A lot of the press focused focused on the event like it was a peculiarity, but as we've written about before, the Stringer 2013 team is proving highly adapt at capturing headlines and taking up air in the 2013 mayoral room.
"It's always inspiring to see voters get behind the lesser known, less trendy candidate, but I have to say, after tonight's success, that won't be the case any longer," said Johansson, standing next to Stringer at a venue better known for the Olsen twins and a tough door.
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer has been on a roll lately. Over the weekendhe spoke at a national symposium on rethinking incarceration policies, calling on the mayor to do just that when it comes to the police department’s controversial stop-and-frisk policy.
Good timing:the day before Police Commissioner Ray Kelly issued a directive to officers to not make arrests for marijuana possession during the procedure. And earlier this month, when a group of city council members announced they were allowing their constituents to vote on how discretionary funds were spent in-district, Stringer’s recent report calling for a major overhaul of the process ends up looking pretty prescient in hindsight.
Yesterday, Stringer was downtown at a stalled construction site turned temporary public space to tout a new report he’s released. He’s calling on the city to help turn some of the 646 other stalled sites into temporary places for public use, like parks or art galleries, like the one at the corner of Varick Street and Canal.
“Imagine a city where stalled construction sites are not simply inactive, dead vacant lots, but one where they boost the health and vitality of a neighborhood,” Stringer said in a statement. “That’s the kind of sidewalk renaissance we need in New York City.”
Opening the report reveals a list of other dozens of other reports, going back as far as 2006, that demonstrate how the non-legislative position of Borough President can be used as bully pulpit. As his office pointed out, these issues aren’t (entirely) flimsy publicity papers—see above.
In a crowded 2013 Democratic mayoral field, Stringer is padding his resume with think tank-like ideas for improving the city and addressing major social issues. He'll likely be citing these as examples to show he can get the city to respond to issues in a way City Council Speaker Christine Quinn can't, as she’s hemmed in by her position in the council and proximity to the current mayor. It will also allow him to list proactive agenda items—a difficult thing for a Borough President—that shows Comptroller John Liu and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio aren’t the only reformers vying for mayoralty.
Monday, September 26, 2011
The hundreds of stalled construction sites around the city could be transformed into temporary vibrant public spaces, according to Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer.
Thursday, September 01, 2011
The fallout has started surrounding today's revelation that a former deputy mayor under Bloomberg resigned after being arrested for domestic violence. And at the front of his media surf board is Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer.
Stringer sent out a statement late this morning saying he was "deeply troubled by the news" that former Deputy Mayor for Operations Stephen Goldsmith had spent two nights in a Washington, DC jail after being arrested after a domestic dispute with his wife. Goldsmith resigned abruptly on August 4. The New York Post reported today that on July 30, Goldsmith had been arrested in Washington, DC, after his wife called the police. The incident, the Post said, was what led to Goldsmith's resignation--not his poor handling of the monster snow storm back in January, as had been the suspicion.
Speaking to the press earlier, Borough President Stringer called on the mayor to give an account of what happened, what the decision making process behind Goldsmith's resignation was, and why the incident wasn't disclosed to the public.
"We have a right to know the circumstances relating to his resignation," Stringer said. "If the resignation was a result of this arrest, then New Yorkers have the right to know that a high-ranking deputy mayor, in charge of oversight of the NYPD, was arrested under some very difficult circumstances."
Stringer was careful not to directly criticize the mayor's handling of the incident, saying that that his office wasn't "picking a fight with the mayor."
"I dont want to characterize the circumstances surrounding the mayor's thinking until i know what it was," Stringer said. "And then we'll go from there."
Marc LaVorgna, a spokesperson with the mayor's office, released the following statement: "We have nothing to add to Mrs. Goldsmith's account of the incident, but it was clear to the Mayor and Mr. Goldsmith that he could no longer serve at City Hall, regardless of his guilt or innocence."
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
By Beth Fertig
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer called on Verizon to return $800,000 it promised to repay to the city's Department of Education back in April, after an investigation revealed that a contractor had defrauded the schools by jacking up the costs of technology upgrades.
Monday, August 01, 2011
A report released Monday, the fifteenth anniversary of the founding of the 47th Street Business Improvement District, said the one block stretch between Fifth and Sixth Avenues known as the 'Diamond District' needs to develop a more cohesive look to continue attracting customers. The block is home to more than 4,000 diamond-related businesses, which give the block its nickname.
Thursday, July 21, 2011
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer's call to let the mayor's office dole out funds to city councilmembers and borough presidents is getting a cold reception to the north. The Bronx BP Ruben Diaz, Jr. is touting the usage of $13 million in discretionary funds in the Bronx today. In particular, Diaz's office said the idea of giving the mayor control over these funds was a non-starter.
"If there’s one thing that’s been crystal clear, [it's that] the mayor doesn’t know what the Bronx needs,” said Diaz's spokesperson John DeSio. The mayor and the Bronx borough presidentwent toe-to-toe over the city's plans to develop the Kingsbridge Armory back in 2010, and relations have remained somewhat icy. Diaz and his labor supporters demanded a mandatory "living" wage of $11.50 per hour for workers in the proposed mall be part of an agreement with developers. Both the mayor's office and the developers balked at the idea and the deal ultimately fell through over the wage demand--a significant development defeat for Bloomberg, and a testament to the power of the city's labor unions.
Diaz is pushing back on Stringer's report, which increasingly looks like a push to burnish the potential mayoral candidate's reformer credentials, as well as said a shot across the bow of fellow Manhattanite and mayoral competitor City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.
Then again, maybe not. There's another potential scenario developing. Quinn ($4.5 million raised) and Stringer ($1.6 million) are now the financial front runners in the 2013 cycle, with the public advocate, Bill De Blasio ($1 million), in fourth. [Note Update: these are the 2013 cycle totals.] The field is already crowded, with both the city's current and previous comptrollers likely contenders. That's not the only crowded field: take a look at our map of where Stringer and Quinn are raising funds (see below). Manhattan may only have room for one mayoral candidate.
The theory is that Stringer will continue to build on his reputation as a reformer--much as the current public advocate, Bill De Blasio, did in his run-up to the position. Despite his fundraising position, De Blasio is in many ways better positioned in a run against Quinn for the nomination. He'll becoming from a citywide office already. His base of support is in labor and the Working Families Party, whereas Quinn is being embraced by the Bloombergian business crowd as their best hope. Additionally, while Manhattan is also giving to De Blasio, his financial and political base is in Brooklyn.
The same argument can be made for Comptroller Liu, who has out-fundraised De Blasio, shares his labor support, and has his own non-Manhattan base in Queens.
With no heir-apparent to De Blasio should he make a sustained push for mayor, the door is open for Stringer. He could decide that, instead of battling over the prized mayoral meat with Quinn, he'd be happy to have his own, with the cash advantage to discourage almost any competition. Plus, with term limits being what they are, it would mean, should they both win and be reelected to the maximum number of terms, Quinn would be out as mayor just in time for Stringer to run in
2025 2021 (still going on term limit extension time--thanks for the tip Dan).
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Citing a $1.3 million discrepancy between the most and least funded council districts through a process described as murky and subjecting, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer released a report calling for a complete overhaul of how New York City Council members receive discretionary funding for their districts.
"I know people are going to be upset with this proposal but we can't keep putting our head in the sand," Stringer said on a conference call with reporters. The Manhattan borough president is seen as a likely candidate for mayor in 2013, as is City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.
City councilmembers and the borough presidents are given these discretionary funds each year during the budget process. These funds are primarily spent on constituent services through non-profits and other groups. While the distribution of the funds by individual councilmembers has at times been the subject of controversy, the borough president’s report focused on which members were getting what, pointing to what the report described as “too often based on a member’s political standing within the Council.”
"The member items are used by the speaker as an instrument of power," explained Doug Muzzio, political science professor at Baruch College and an expert on city government. "You reward your friends and you screw your enemies." Reforming member items as Stringer is suggesting would be, in essence, curtailing the power of the speaker of the city council—currently Christine Quinn.
Specifically, the report called for replacing the current, speaker-based system with one that would have the mayor’s office allotting the money evenly, or on a more transparent process that took the needs of the districts’ constituents into account. Currently, $49.6 million in funding is divided among the council’s 51 members. If the report’s recommendation were implemented, it would likely mean even more power in the hands of the mayor, at the expense of the council’s speaker, and potentially the council itself.
Quinn’s office released a statement through Maria Alvarado, the council’s press secretary, saying they were reviewing the report and were “proud of the budget reforms the Council has already implemented that increase transparency and accountability—including an online database that the Borough President has embraced today.”
The borough president’s report highlighted the significant difference between the council members. For example, Brooklyn Councilmember Domenic Recchia received the most funding during the budget process--$1,630,064 to be exact. This is more than four times as much as either Bronx councilmembers Larry Seabrook or Helen Foster received. Their districts are some of the poorest in the city. The report’s figures are based on reviewing the past four years of available data.
"I agree with Borough President Scott Stringer that District budget allocations should be based on the needs of each district," Seabrook said in a statement. "City Council Speaker Christine Quinn decides on the budget allocations for each district and I certainly hope that next year’s decision for my district is a more favorable one."
“The players at the table get more,” Foster said about the current system. “It’s not based on fairness at all. I don't know that there is any system in politics that is based on need." While she made it clear she was not in favor of any reform that took power away from the council in favor of the mayor, Foster agreed with Seabrook, that the system should be taking some level of need into account.
"The disparities should not be so great," she said.
The map below illustrates just how removed from a standardized system the process is. When the districts for the five lowest and highest receivers of total funds are put on a map, it turns out that three of the highest receivers are directly next to or one district away from all but one of the least funded districts.
NYC City Council "Member Item" distribution for fiscal year 2012.
Top five district allocations are in green, bottom five are in red.
Source: Office of Mannhattan Borough President Scott Stringer