News Release

For Immediate Release
Sunday, October 18, 2009

Contact:
Dick Dadey, (917) 709-2896

CITIZENS UNION ENDORSES
MICHAEL BLOOMBERG FOR MAYOR

HISTORIC GOOD GOVERNMENT GROUP BELIEVES BLOOMBERG IS BEST EQUIPPED TO LEAD NEW YORK CITY
Term Limits Reversal Impacts but Does Not End Citizens Union's Support for the Mayor
Mayor Discloses That He is Open to Giving CCRB Prosecutorial Power

Makes Final Decisions in November Contests for Staten Island Borough President and City Council


Chair Peter Sherwin and Executive Director Dick Dadey today announce that Citizens Union supports the reelection of Mayor Michael Bloomberg. In just over two weeks, New Yorkers have an important decision to make about which candidate is best able to lead the City of New York over the next four years. We do not make this decision easily given the importance of the issues that lie ahead and how disappointed Citizens Union was by Mayor Bloomberg's decision to reverse his position on the issue of term limits and seek a change to the city charter that overturned the twice voter-enacted law.

Mayor Bloomberg, however, has enacted desired political reforms and strongly led the city, especially during this most recent difficult economic time. The Mayor has also indicated that he now is open to considering giving the Civilian Complaint Review Board the power to prosecute its cases. Citizens Union believes, that among those running for mayor, the most capable candidate to serve as mayor remains Michael Bloomberg. The organization also endorsed John Luisi for Staten Island borough president and thirteen candidates for city council.

In 2009, New Yorkers live in a city that is better run and safer than it was when Mayor Bloomberg was first elected in 2001 - no small feat given how much crime had already been reduced by Mayor Giuliani. Under his leadership, financial support for education has increased dramatically and with it the overall performance of our school system has improved. Infrastructure investments like those made in our city parks and a commitment to a greener NYC have been welcomed and made the city as a whole more livable. Information about government operations has become more available because of his commitment to using innovative technology that makes information easily accessible to the public. Racial discord, though still present, is no longer as prevalent as it was in the 1990s.

Despite the fact that the city's expense budget has increased approximately fifty percent since Fiscal Year 2002 - almost twice the rate of inflation - the city is weathering the crippling economic crisis because of Mayor Bloomberg's sound stewardship of the city's finances such as paying down the city's future debt obligations and prepaying employee health care costs when he could. While personal financial hardships exist for far too many New Yorkers, many feel good about the city they live in and that is because of the way in which the mayor has managed the city, addressed its problems, and delivered city services.

By banning smoking in indoor public spaces and foods with trans-fats, he laid the foundation for New Yorkers to become healthier. He also enacted important political reforms during the past four years that strengthen lobbying oversight and improve the city's campaign finance program by restricting pay-to-play activity and reducing the influence of some, but not all, special interests.

The interest of good government is not just about how well democracy is practiced in our city, but also about how well our government is run and whether it efficiently and effectively addresses the needs of its citizens. For a good government group such as Citizens Union, the process of last year's term limits extension tarnishes the enthusiasm we feel for the notable achievements that have been realized under Mayor Bloomberg's leadership. But in the end, term limits was but one of the many issues on which Citizens Union evaluated the mayor, the comptroller, and other elected officials and candidates.

Citizens Union was also disappointed that the Mayor did not fulfill his welcomed pledge to form a charter revision commission in 2008 to conduct a needed twenty-year review of the major changes made in 1988 and 1989 to city government's form and function. If he had, New Yorkers might have had a chance to weigh in on whether to change the term limits law and other basic city governance matters. If the Mayor is reelected, we hope that he will move quickly on this overdue promise. We further recommend that the commission be comprised of members suggested by other elected officials and independently staffed. Actions such as these would ensure that our government meaningfully engages more of its citizens in solving problems and making New York a better city.

No review of the Mayor's record would be complete without noting our concern over the amount of money he is spending on his reelection. It is surprising that such a well-known mayor with a strong record finds it necessary to barrage the public with a large amount of mailings, advertisements and commercials. His effort, though entirely legal and permissible, is excessive and arguably undermines the intent of the city's campaign finance program - which he worked to strengthen - to create equity and fairness among the candidates who run for office.

Bill Thompson has served the city well and admirably as city comptroller and president of the former Board of Education where he put education governance on a path toward reform. His voice last year was also clear and welcomed in opposing the extension of term limits through legislation. While Citizens Union preferred Comptroller Thompson during the Democratic primary election, he has not sufficiently articulated his priorities, policy proposals and governance style as strongly or in as much detail as Citizens Union expects from a mayoral candidate. He has not given us a clear enough idea of what he would do as the mayor of New York other than not to be Bloomberg - and for Citizens Union, that is not sufficient for the challenges our city faces.

New York faces many serious challenges over the next four years that require strong and decisive leadership. Increases in labor and pension costs threaten to cripple the city's budget at a time when tax receipts are declining. Rising incidents of stop-and-frisk searches have led to record complaints against the police, yet the system of redress available to New Yorkers under the Civilian Complaint Review Board lacks public confidence because the police department controls too much of the disciplinary process. It is why Citizens Union supports giving the CCRB the power to prosecute the cases it substantiates.

During its evaluation process, Citizens Union was pleased to learn that the Mayor is open to considering the recommendation to grant the CCRB the power to prosecute the cases it substantiates, a position supported by Bill Thompson. We hope that he moves soon to implement the memorandum of understanding executed in 2001 under Mayor Giuliani that would transfer prosecutorial power. It would be an important and welcome step in addressing some of the concern that rightfully exists over the alarming rise in the number of stop-and-frisk incidents.

The revitalization of New York however remains elusive to some communities in the boroughs outside of Manhattan that have not experienced the same level of vibrancy and success under the Bloomberg administration as is evidenced in parts of the city like Manhattan. Affordable housing is still out of reach for far too many New Yorkers as development needed to grow the city displaces low and middle-income families from their home neighborhoods and the rate of homelessness remains unacceptably high. Though our economy is less reliant on Wall Street than it once was, our city still needs greater diversity in its industries to become the 21st century city it aims to be.

Should he win reelection, Mayor Bloomberg can avoid the pitfalls that often plague third-term executives by embarking upon on an ambitious effort to further reform city government operations and structure. In addition to establishing a charter revision commission that undertakes a thorough review of city government, he should take steps to increase voter participation and turnout. In particular, it may even be worthwhile to reconsider the issue of nonpartisan elections. Campaign finance laws could be further strengthened by tackling the outsized influence of institutions such as unions during elections. The Mayor should also work to revamp ethics and lobbying oversight to make it more effective. Equally important, his voice could be helpful in advancing state government reform.

With respect to education, the Mayor must do more to engage parents in the education of their children and provide them with more opportunities for input. Additionally, he should expand his efforts to make government data more available so New Yorkers can independently evaluate city performance. Critical and far-reaching reform that would end the political party and partisan management of our elections is also overdue, both at the city and state level, and though there is little he can do in this arena, his continued voice is needed.

One of the reasons the term limits reversal continues to resonate is because it crystallized for some New Yorkers the disconnect they can experience from city government when it acts in the public's interest yet fails to meaningfully engage them before making its decisions. A third term for the Mayor therefore should be characterized by a renewed commitment to a political reform agenda that reengineers government to make it even more accessible and accountable to the citizens it serves.

Based on his strong record of achievement, his commitment to political reform, and his non-partisan approach to addressing issues and solving problems, we have confidence that Mayor Bloomberg will continue to manage the city soundly and lead New York well. And for these reasons, Citizens Union supports the re-election of Michael Bloomberg to the office of Mayor of the City of New York.

COUNCIL RACES and STATEN ISLAND BOROUGH PRESIDENT

Citizens Union today also announced its endorsements for City Council and Staten Island Borough President. After evaluating thirteen council races for the general election, the organization continues to support Diana Reyna in council district 34 during the general election as she faces a particularly challenging race for reelection because she has proven herself to be a strong, independent representative for her community. In council district 23, Citizens Union also endorses Mark Weprin, whom we preferred during the primary election, because of his long-standing relationship with the community and work with the organization on reform issues. Also in Queens, Citizens Union endorses Eric Ulrich in council district 32 as an energetic new member of the council with fresh perspectives who we hope will be an ally on advancing reform proposals.

The organization also endorses the election of John Luisi for Staten Island borough president, and the election of council candidates Daniel Garodnick and Jessica Lappin in Manhattan, Kevin Kim, Peter Vallone Jr., and Elizabeth Crowley in Queens, Vincent Gentile in Brooklyn, and Debi Rose, James Oddo and Vincent Ignizio in Staten Island.

Additional information about the candidates is available now at www.citizensunion.org and our decisions will soon be available in our voters directory which will be online next week.


Citizens Union of the City of New York, a nonpartisan force for good government for more than 100 years, works to inform and engage New Yorkers, to ensure local and state government values its citizens, addresses critical issues, and operates in a fair, open, and fiscally sound manner.


299 Broadway, Suite 700, New York, NY 10007-1976
Peter J. W. Sherwin, Chair
Dick Dadey, Executive Director info@citizensunion.org

 


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