119 Years of Leadership for Good Government


1897

     

Citizens Union is founded as an independent political party, unaligned with either the Democratic or Republican Party, emphasizing New York City concerns. The founders include such leading citizens as J. Pierpont Morgan, Benjamin Altman, James A. Roosevelt and Carl Schurz in addition to citizens who represent a diverse cross section of the economic and social fabric of the city.

         
         

1901

     

Seth Low is nominated and elected under the banner of Citizens Union to the office of Mayor, defeating the Tammany Hall political machine.

         
         

1908

     

Citizens Union changes its purpose from a political party to an independent, non-partisan force for good government to avoid the problem of party patronage.

         
         

1910

     

The first Citizens Union Voters Directory is published to inform and guide the electorate on whom to support for elected office.

         
         

1914

     

Citizens Union leads and wins the campaign to protect the integrity of the vote which results in the Board of Elections instituting signature identification of voters at the polls.

         
         

1915

     

For the first time slate voting is reversed, at the urging of Citizens Union, to allow voters to support a split ticket of candidates from different political parties.

         
         

1923

     

Through the efforts of Citizens Union, the earliest form of home rule is enacted in New York City freeing it from total state governance while providing the City with the right of local law on certain domestic matters.

         
         

1924

     

Citizens Union leads the fight against developing subway lines through Central Park.

         
         

1933

     

Fiorello H. LaGuardia, ardently endorsed by Citizens Union as a reform candidate, is elected as Mayor. “Those now in control of the City Government strive to maintain it primarily to provide security and luxury for the overseers of the Tammany vineyard. Mr. LaGuardia has no sympathy for that point of view. His hatred of political parasites is deep-seated,” asserts the Voters Directory.

         
         

1936

     

Adoption of proportional representation to elect members of the City Council is enacted largely as a result of Citizens Union’s advocacy and leadership.

         
         

1938

     

On October 7th, a New York Times editorial states “One of our city’s most useful civic agencies is the Citizens Union…. The Union is not, of course, infallible, but it has a good record of being on the constructive side with regard to issues and candidates…. The union has earned—never betrayed—the confidence of many thousands of citizens.”

         
         

1946

     

The efforts by Citizens Union makes possible the building of the Port Authority Bus Terminal in order to centralize the scores of commuter buses on the streets, alleviate traffic congestion and reduce pollution.

         
         

1948

     

By capitalizing on recent victories on environmental issues, Citizens Union facilitates the establishment of a city Department on Air Pollution Control. This earns praise from the New York Times which states, “The Citizens Union has now decided to take the lead in seeing that something is done about air pollution. The movement could not have a more knowledgeable or energetic sponsor.”

         
         

1948

     

Citizens Union Foundation is founded as the nonprofit research, education and advocacy organization focusing on long-range analyses and non-partisan studies of public policy issues.

         
         

1952

     

Milton Bergerman, Citizens Union Chair, launches a radio and later television program, Citizens Union Searchlight. The program first airs on WNBC and later New York 1 and continues into the 90s.

         
         

1953

     

On August 22nd, The New Yorker profiles Citizens Union as “like a good housekeeper who is unendingly mopping out dark corners, sweeping under sofas, mending and darning and patching…. It is unfortunate that most citizens find little drama in this sort of work, since, as every housekeeper knows, many small chores can add up to a big result.”

         
         

1957

     

After 20 years of advocacy by Citizens Union, permanent personal registration becomes law; overturning a requirement that all eligible voters have to re-register before each and every election.

         
         

1959

     

Citizens Union leads citizens’ effort to remove one of its former leading members, Robert Moses, from public office in light of his increasing cronyism and autocratic approach, resulting in Moses’ resignation from all city posts, including City Parks Commissioner.

         
         

1963

     

16 years after Citizen Union proposes the creation of local districts to provide for citizen participation, the City Charter establishes community boards.

         
         

1965

     

John V. Lindsay is preferred by Citizens Union and elected Mayor. He said, “Citizens Union has been a pioneer in the field of citizen action.”

         
         

1982

     

Citizens Union challenges the district lines drawn by the City Council as racially discriminatory. The US Department of Justice upholds the challenge.

         
         

1983

     

Citizens Union filed the first of many amicus briefs in the case challenging the constitutionality of the Board of Estimate, a governing body argued by CU as being “undemocratic, unresponsive and unrepresentative.”

         
         

1986

     

Citizens Union adopts a “Plan of Action for the New York City Water Supply,” and publishes Thirsty City.

         
         

1987

     

The state legislature passes woefully inadequate ethics reform, but at the urging of Citizens Union and other civic organizations, Governor Cuomo vetoes the bill forcing the legislature to revisit the issue and draft a tougher law. The following year, in the City, a Charter proposal is adopted creating a stronger Conflict of Interest Board supported by Citizens Union.

         
         

1988

     

The United States Supreme Court declares the Board of Estimate to be in violation of the Constitution’s one person -- one vote principle -- leading to the modification of the City Charter and the abolishment of the Board of Estimate. Citizens Union argued for decades that the Board of Estimate was “undemocratic and unresponsive.”

         
         

1989

     

Citizens Union Foundation begins monitoring the New York City Council and henceforth publishes Searchlight on the City Council, a comprehensive guide to the city’s legislative body and its actions.

         
         

1996

     

Based on the legal suit by Citizens Union and a number of civic organizations against the Mayor and the City Council, the Independent Budget Office is finally established after five previously ignored court orders.

         
         

1999

     

Citizens Union Foundation launches GothamGazette.com, a daily website of news and policy issues facing New York City. Since its launch, Gotham Gazette wins accolades and numerous awards, including the prestigious Online Journalism Award for General Excellence.

         
         

2001

     

In response to the imminent need for poll workers by the Board of Elections to staff polling sites on Election Day, Citizens Union Foundation launches the first poll worker recruitment efforts to help facilitate election administration.

         
         

2001

     

Following the September 11th attacks, Gotham Gazette launches, Rebuilding New York, a section of the Web site that provides comprehensive coverage of the planning for the World Trade Center site. Citizens Union joins the Civic Alliance to ensure civic participation in the rebuilding effort.

         
         

2002

     

With the enactment of term limits and subsequent election of an unprecedented 34 new City Council Members, Citizens Union hosts Issue Study Forums to educate and engage the incoming freshman council members.

         
         

2004

     

Citizens Union helps to draft and advocates for the Young Adult Voter Registration Act, which passes the City Council unanimously.

         
         

2004

     

Citizens Union Foundation publishes a comprehensive report on the proposed development of Manhattan’s Westside that is critical of the closed process in which the decision is being made. It argues that such huge public investment decisions should be made by legislative bodies, not by unaccountable public authorities.

2004

     

Citizens Union changes the measures by which it evaluates candidates for state legislature and pushes candidates to support an agenda of broad reform in the State Capitol, helping to create a political climate of needed change in Albany.

         
         

2005

     

Citizens Union, as part of a good government coalition, helps to push through the most significant set of reforms to state government in a generation affecting campaign finance, lobbying, ethics, legislative rules, public authorities, freedom of information laws, and television coverage of the legislature's proceedings.

         
         

2006

     

Citizens Union evaluates statewide candidates for the first time in its history, issuing recommendations for Governor, Attorney General, and State Comptroller.

         
         

2006

     

Citizens Union's report on the political consulting and lobbying nexus ignites a reform effort prompting Mayor Bloomberg and Council Speaker Quinn to enact a law increasing disclosure and strengthening enforcement of lobbying activity.

         
         

2007

     

New York City's heralded campaign finance program is strengthened with the historic restriction of pay to play contributions from those who do business with the city after years of Citizens Union advocating for such needed change.

         
         

2008
     
Strongly opposes City Council legislative action initiated by Mayor Bloomberg to extend term limits and supports instead a voter referendum. The legislation led to the most divisive Council vote in years with 22 members opposing the action.
         
         

2009
     
Proposes and publicly sanctions the Governor’s authority to appoint a Lieutenant Governor, effectively breaking a paralyzing Senate deadlock. Files supportive amicus brief which receives a favorable ruling by the Court of Appeals, confirming Governor Paterson’s authority to act and CU’s position.
         
         

2010
     
For the first time in history, meaningful redistricting reform law advances through two legislative committees. Citizens Union also secures unprecedented support from all gubernatorial candidates to veto any lines drawn by legislature.
         
         

2010
     
Releases widely heralded report recommending NYC Charter changes to increase avenues for public participation in governing and elections.
         
         

2011
     
New York State enacts historic ethics reform, pressured by Citizens Union's relentless advocacy and reports detailing the rise of ethical misconduct in Albany.
         
         
 
  2012
     
Broadbased campaign results in first passage of a constitutional amendment to effectively end partisan gerrymandering in 2022 at the state level. Citizens Union's advocacy leads to the transfer of prosecutorial powers against police misconduct in New York City to the Civilian Complaint Review Board.
         
         

2013

 
     
The legislature passed a bill streamlining procedures for closing the polls on election night so that unofficial election night results are reported more efficiently and quickly, marking the culmination of a year long advocacy campaign.
         
         
 
2014
     
Citizens Union championed redistricting reform with passage of Prop 1, a constitutional amendment that
stripped legislators of their unchecked power to draw their own district lines by establishing a politically balanced commission.
         
         

2015
     
Affecting state lawmakers' ethics, CU achieves greater disclosure of amount and source of outside income, better verification of travel reimbursements, and modest restrictions on the use of campaign funds.