New York City Mayor

NO ENDORSEMENT

BILL DE BLASIO – DEMOCRAT

Questionnaire | Website

Age: 56
Occupation: Mayor of New York City
Education: New York University, B.A.; Columbia University, M.I.A.

Mayor de Blasio touts his achievements during his first term: further crime reductions, establishment of citywide pre-K, substantial job growth, and standing up to divisive Trump policies, including maintaining New York City as a sanctuary for immigrants. The Mayor also claims his affordable housing plan is ahead of schedule, that police-community relations are improving, and that the police force is now more diverse. On the other hand, income inequality – a key focus of his 2013 campaign – is still a major issue (although he claims to be making strides to address it), the homelessness crisis has worsened, and relations between Albany and City Hall are severely strained. However, particularly concerning to Citizens Union is that the Mayor’s conduct has raised many troubling ethical issues. For example, a nonprofit organization he formed, the Campaign for One New York, was a means of attracting contributions to enhance the Mayor’s political agenda from many individuals and entities seeking to do business with the city. These donors were able to give far more to this entity than they could to his mayoral campaign, given the city’s campaign contribution limits. A 2015 report showed over 60% of donors in one six-month period either had business or labor contacts with City Hall or were pursuing approval for a project when they contributed. In addition, the Mayor maintained connections with his campaign consultants after taking office, at one point claiming them to be “agents” of the city (even though they were not on the city’s payroll) to try to shield their communications from Freedom of Information Law disclosure. And his effort to support certain Democratic candidates for the State Senate in 2014 led to an investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney, who, while ultimately deciding not to prosecute, took the extraordinary step of issuing a public statement saying that the Mayor’s fundraising in that regard “appear[ed] contrary to the intent and spirit of the law.” Also concerning is recent sworn testimony of a witness cooperating with federal prosecutors regarding “pay-to-play” allegations involving City Hall. We hope that in the future whoever is elected Mayor will address the perception of a “pay-to-play” culture at City Hall and support ethics reform legislation for the benefit of all New Yorkers, like the legislation enacted late last year at Citizens Union’s urging to curb nonprofits such as the Campaign for One New York. Besides the incumbent, the only other major party candidate, Nicole Malliotakis, is earnest, has a promising future, but would benefit from more experience in order to run a government of the size and complexity of New York City. The other candidates, while also evaluated, did not demonstrate the range of leadership skills or public support to receive preferential consideration. Hence, for all of these reasons, for the first time in more than 50 years, Citizens Union, by a unanimous vote of its governing board, chooses not to express a preference and cannot support any of the candidates on the ballot for Mayor of New York City.

SAL F. ALBANESE – REFORM

Questionnaire | Website

Age: 67
Occupation: Attorney at Allegaert Berger & Vogel LLP
Education: CUNY York College, B.A.; New York University, M.A.; Brooklyn Law School, J.D.

Sal Albanese is an attorney who represented southwest Brooklyn on the City Council for fifteen years during the 1980’s and 1990’s, followed by campaigns to win the Democratic Party nomination for Mayor in 1997, 2001, 2013, and 2017. He was known to be an independent Council Member, voting against the party leadership’s positions and pressing for reform issues like public campaign finance. Albanese stresses the need for a major overhaul of the political system, which he sees as broken. He also supports revamping campaign finance laws by establishing a voucher program (voter donations through public funding), reducing the donation cap, and forbidding the bundling of campaign contributions. On Mayor-Council relations, Albanese wants to enact an advise and consent procedure over agency commissioner appointments in the Council. On voting reform, Albanese advocates for a nonpartisan election system and instant runoff elections. He is in line with most of the Citizens Union questionnaire items, except on the issue of police oversight – he opposes enhancing the Civilian Complaint Review Board’s (CCRB) capabilities or establishing Commission to Combat Police Corruption (CCPC) as a permanent commission – and opposes independent budgeting for certain local boards and offices. Among Albanese’s other priorities are improving the mass transit system through greater MTA funding and tolling system changes, building more affordable housing by taxing non-primary-residence properties and building on available city-owned lots, and passing the Small Business Jobs Survival Act.

NICOLE MALLIOTAKIS – REPUBLICAN

Questionnaire | Website

Age: 36
Occupation: New York State Assembly Member, District 64
Education: Seton Hall University, B.A.; Wagner College, M.B.A.

Nicole Malliotakis was first elected to the New York State Assembly in 2010 to represent eastern Staten Island and parts of Bay Ridge in Brooklyn, defeating a two-term incumbent Democrat. She is a member of the Banking, Corporation's, Transportation, and Ways and Means Committees, and has touted her work on Superstorm Sandy recovery, restoring Staten Island bus service, and increasing transparency in the MTA. Malliotakis has been a vocal critic of the current administration for increasing city spending while showing what she sees as little results, especially in the quality of infrastructure, education, public safety, and homeless services. To improve what she sees as bad city management, she would implement a system of metrics to identify which programs are achieving results and which should be eliminated or reformed, and would also freeze property tax levies and implement a spending cap on the city’s expenses. To address the homelessness crisis, Malliotakis seeks to build supportive units for individuals with mental health conditions, provide rent subsidies contingent on job training, and prohibit the use of hotels as shelters, among other proposals. On reform issues, Malliotakis is aligned with Citizens Union’s agenda regarding the city’s “pay-to-play” culture and transparency, as she supports more disclosure of lobbying activities and council members’ outside income, and greater independence and transparency in budgeting; however, she opposes the city’s campaign finance public matching program (though she said she is using it for her mayoral race to be able to compete against the Mayor’s substantial campaign fund). Malliotakis is at odds with Citizens Union’s position on police oversight: she opposes the release of police officers’ disciplinary records to the public (Section 50-a), enhancing the CCRB’s capabilities, and establishing CCPC as a permanent commission, among other things. Malliotakis does not see any problems with current Mayor-Council relations or the legislative process, but believes a Republican Mayor would bring needed balance to the Democratic-controlled Council. On state-city relations, she is supportive of greater home rule for control over city schools, but not for levying taxes. In the Assembly, Malliotakis voted against same-sex marriage (a vote she said she now regrets) and has worked for various legislative reforms, including having bills provided to legislators electronically.

MICHAEL (MIKE) TOLKIN – SMART CITIES

Questionnaire | Website

Age: 32
Occupation: Full-time Candidate
Education: University of Pennsylvania, B.S.A.

Mike Tolkin is a tech entrepreneur who, in the private sector, founded initiatives related to virtual reality products and consumer benefits, as well as a proposed project to develop a city park in NoMad, Manhattan. Tolkin presents a vision for a “smarter city” and a “new economy” that includes immense investments in infrastructure (a $25 billion capital plan), healthcare (a universal single-payer mental health system), social safety nets (a universal basic income program), and housing (affordable campuses to be built on city-owned parcels). To fund these ambitious plans, Tolkin proposes to use the profits from a network of for-profit corporations he would establish, owned by the city but competing in the free market, in areas like e-commerce, research, and development, or any other business that has a potential revenue of at least a billion dollars. He also seeks to increase collaboration with the private sector through private-public partnerships. Tolkin did not answer many of Citizens Union reform questionnaire items, partly because his plans include a radical restructuring of city government. He does support greater home rule, especially in terms of public transit and mayoral control of schools, as well as increasing transparency and accountability through technological innovations. Tolkin has also proposed community-elected police officers and a “Board of Taxpayers” that reviews budgets.

New York City Public Advocate

JAMES C. LANE - GREEN
Has not returned questionnaire

MICHAEL A. O’REILLY – CONSERVATIVE
Has not returned questionnaire

New York City Comptroller

ALEX MERCED – LIBERTARIAN
Has not returned questionnaire

NYC Council District 4

NYC Council District 15

★ Endorsed Candidate RITCHIE TORRES – DEMOCRAT★

Questionnaire | No website.

Age: 29
Occupation: New York City Council Member, District 15
Education: High School

Ritchie Torres was elected to the New York City Council to represent District 15 in 2013 as the youngest member of the Council and is currently seeking reelection. He is the Chair of the Committee on Public Housing and a likely candidate for speaker. Noting his own history as a NYCHA resident, Torres emphasized the importance of improving public housing stock and seeking more accountability from landlords. He also wants to increase diversity in public schools by enacting controlled choice; provide addiction treatment services, and increase funding to services for immigrant and LGBTQ communities. Torres is supportive of much of Citizens Union’s reform agenda. He is a strong supporter of greater police accountability and has sponsored legislation in the area during his first term. Torres supports Citizens Union’s voting and elections, campaign finance, and budget reform agenda. He is not in favor, however, of holding a constitutional convention. Citizens Union endorses Council Member Torres because of his legislative aptitude, especially on matters related to housing and police accountability, and his sensitivity to the issues facing his constituents.

JAYSON CANCEL – REPUBLICAN

Questionnaire | Website

Age: 26
Occupation: Fire Safety Director
Education: Bronx Community College, A.A.

Jayson Cancel is a fire safety director with experience in security. His priorities are community oriented but relatively unspecific. His primary goals are to improve the economic health of the district by reducing income inequality, improve funding for public health services, and promote cleaner subways and public spaces. Cancel opposes new homeless shelters in District 15 because of the economic hardships it faces. On reform issues, Cancel supports law enforcement reform through increased communication and improved relations between communities and the police. He supports almost all of Citizens Union’s questionnaire items, including holding a constitutional convention, but opposes allowing committee chairs to hire a staffer and giving chairs the power to schedule committee hearings and votes. While Citizens Union believes Cancel has a genuine desire to improve his district, his platform lacks specificity and his background does not indicate that he would be an effective lawmaker.

NYC Council District 43

★ Endorsed Candidate JUSTIN BRANNAN – DEMOCRAT ★

Questionnaire | Website

Age: 38
Occupation: Full-time Candidate
Education: Fordham University and College of Staten Island, B.A.

Justin Brannan is currently a full-time candidate. He previously served as Chief of Staff for Council Member Vincent Gentile and is the founder of Bay Ridge Cares, a nonprofit organization that addresses quality of life issues in Bay Ridge. Brannan’s top priorities in the district are to improve public transportation options, address overcrowding in
classrooms, support small businesses, increase funding for senior services, and increase community-police interaction. He supports almost all of Citizens Union’s reform priorities
and is especially supportive of Council rules reforms to make the process of policymaking more fair, efficient, and external to the political dynamics of the Council. Brannan
splits notably with Citizens Union’s agenda on the subject of holding a constitutional convention, which he opposes. Citizens Union endorses Brannan because, in addition to
his knowledge of the issues facing his district, he is the candidate most versed in reform issues and presents as the candidate with the greatest ability to successfully negotiate the
dynamics of the Council.

JOHN QUAGLIONE - REPUBLICAN

Questionnaire | Website

Age: 38
Occupation: Deputy Chief of Staff and Press Secretary for Senator Martin Golden
Education: American University, B.A.

John Quaglione is currently the Deputy Chief of Staff and Press Secretary for State Senator Martin Golden and serves as the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Saint Anselm
Catholic Academy. Qualgione’s top priorities are creating a city-wide database of cell phone videos and pictures taken by civilians to assist NYPD investigations, increasing the presence of police in District 43, introducing participatory budgeting, improving public transportation, and increasing funding for senior services like the Senior Citizens Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) and the Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage (EPIC) programs. Quaglione supports a number of Citizens Union’s reform goals, but differs on the subject of police accountability, holding a constitutional convention, and independent budgeting for certain public offices and boards. He does, however, believe that the CCRB should be empowered to prosecute officers found lying during their investigations. Quaglione demonstrates experience and knowledge of his district’s concerns, but Citizens Union was troubled by remarks he recently made that showed an insensitivity to women’s rights.

BOB CAPANO – REFORM

Questionnaire | Website

Candidate could not be scheduled for an interview.

ANGEL MEDINA – WOMEN’S EQUALITY
Has not returned questionnaire

NYC Council District 44

NO ENDORSEMENT

KALMAN YEGER – DEMOCRAT

Questionnaire | No website.

Age: 43
Occupation: Attorney
Education: Touro College, B.A.; New York Law School, J.D.

Kalman Yeger is a counsel and executive director of the Bronx Borough President’s election committee, and since 2010 has served as a senior advisor and counsel to the current incumbent, Council Member David Greenfield. He stresses that his priorities are related to local issues: securing funding to improve the F express train line, funding the district’s parks, maintaining participatory budgeting, and being a voice for his community in the Council. With regard to Citizens Union’s reform agenda, Yeger supports stronger reform of the Council’s bill drafting process than the one enacted in 2014, which will increase transparency and reduce the speaker’s ability to abuse her or his power and council members’ ability to “freeze” issues or bills from being considered further. He also supports Citizens Union’s goal of preventing an emerging “pay-to-play” culture in NYC. However, Yeger opposed many of Citizens Union’s questionnaire items, including proposals to establish a nonpartisan election system, institute instant runoff voting, increase campaign public matching funding, enhance the power of the CCRB and CCPC, and others. He remains undecided on holding a constitutional convention. He also suggests treating expenditures by “issue” nonprofits as campaign expenditures subject to the limitations of the Campaign Finance Act as a mechanism for addressing the “pay-to-play” issue. Yeger was running for City Council in District 48 until Council Member Greenfield announced that he would no longer seek re-election—after the petition filing deadline for candidates had passed—and selected Yeger as his successor as the Democratic candidate for District 44, a move that was criticized by Citizens Union as disenfranchising constituents and fueling the cynicism of New York voters. In his interview, Yeger himself was also critical of the process that led him to this seat, but claimed both council districts have overlapping communities and neighborhoods.

YONI HIKIND – OUR NEIGHBORHOOD
Has not returned questionnaire


HAROLD TISCHLER – SCHOOL CHOICE
Has not returned questionnaire