The Flacks Report 22 October 2010
"Pete" Grannis Fired by Gov.
Alexander "Pete" Grannis, the N.Y. State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner and one of our best environmentalists and public servants, was fired yesterday by the Accidental Governor. Read all about it:
General Election Ballot Proposals
ITEMS TO BE PLACED ON THE NOVEMBER 2, 2010, BALLOT
BY THE N.Y.C. CHARTER REVISION COMMISSION:
Under existing charter provisions, as amended by a local law enacted by the Council in, 2008, City Council members and other elected City officials may currently serve up to three consecutive four year terms. Previously, a law enacted by voter initiative in 1993 established a limit of two four year terms for elected officials. In order to allow the electorate to choose between a two-term and a three-term limit, the Commission determined to place a proposal on the ballot to reduce the current limit of three consecutive terms for elected City officials to two consecutive full terms. Additionally, the proposal would prohibit the City Council from altering the term limit of incumbent elected officials; and provide that the proposed changes to two terms would apply to officials first elected to office after November 5, 2013.
Reducing Signature Requirements for Petitions
Voter turnout in City elections is dramatically low with only 26% of registered New Yorkers having voted in the last mayoral election. While the Commission explored a number of provisions designed to increase voter turnout, most of these would require a change in state law or the State Constitution. Some measures within the City’s jurisdiction to enact can apply only to city elections. Since virtually all city elections occur at the same time and place as state elections, the differing voting requirements present the potential for massive voter confusion. The Commission has, however, proposed a measure permitted under state law to enable candidates for City elections to get onto the ballot with a reduced number of petition signatures. The proposal reduces from 7,500 to 3,750 the number of signatures necessary to gain access to a party primary for the Mayor, Comptroller, and Public Advocate; reduces from 4,000 to 2,000 the number of signatures necessary to gain access to a party primary for Borough Presidents; and reduces from 900 to 450 the number of signatures necessary for Council members to gain access to a party primary, or to 2,700 for access to the general election ballot for independent candidates.
Consolidating the Voter Assistance Commission (VAC) and the Campaign Finance Board (CFB) and Changing the terms of CFB Board Members
The Commission is proposing to consolidate the Voter Assistance Commission with the CFB (it is now a free standing entity); restructure its membership; rename it the “Voter Assistance Advisory Committee”; and redefine certain administrative functions and responsibilities of both entities. CFB has a well-established and managed operative framework through which VAC’s impact can be enhanced. VAC already works with CFB in producing the Voters Guide and the Video Voters Guide. CFB would appoint the voter assistance coordinator and be responsible for carrying out the voter assistance functions currently listed in the Charter with the advice and assistance of VAC. The proposal will also move the commencement date for CFB members from April 1 to January 1.
Require the Disclosure of Independent Campaign Contributions
In recent years, independent expenditures by individuals or entities not working in tandem with declared candidates have become an increasingly significant part of election- related spending in New York City. To provide the public with more information about these expenditures and enhance the extensive disclosure already required of persons or entities that expend or contribute monies in conjunction with identified candidates for city office, the Commission proposes to amend the City’s renowned Campaign Finance law to require disclosure of expenditures by persons or entities who are acting independently of candidates. (This proposal involves disclosure only and does not set new contribution and expenditure limits for candidates.) The Commission’s proposal will require any individual or entity making a contribution or expenditure of $1000 or more endorsing a candidate or referendum, independent of that candidate or the proponent of the referendum, to disclose the expenditure to the CFB; require any entity similarly making a contribution of $5,000 or more to disclose the sources of the funds: and require that literature or advertisements funded by individuals or entities making independent expenditures identify the name of the individual or entity making the expenditure.
Amendments to Chapter 68, Conflicts of Interest
The Commission proposes two reforms to the Charter to increase accountability among City employees, and to prevent corruption and abuse. The Commission proposes to increase penalties for violation of the City’s conflicts of interest law and to establish mandatory training for city employees. The first penalty proposal recommends that penalties for a single conflict of interest violation be raised from a maximum of $10,000 to a maximum of $25,000. The current fine schedule has not been updated or adjusted for inflation since 1988 and it will give the Conflicts of Interest Board (“COIB”) more flexibility to finely calibrate its penalties and thereby signal the relative importance of the proscriptions in the conflicts law. The second proposal authorizes disgorgement of gains obtained as a result of any conflict of interest violation. The Commission expects that these two provisions will have a deterrent effect on conflicts of interest violations. Finally, the Commission offers a proposal that mandates that all city employees be trained in the City’s Conflict of Interest provisions within 60 days of the commencement of city employment and periodically thereafter. While the COIB has been systematically training city employees, this proposal clarifies that all employees must be trained and requires agencies to develop plans for providing training. The training may be in person or online.
Consolidating Administrative Tribunals
Adjudication of administrative violations currently take place at more than a dozen separate tribunals operated under different procedures and with differently qualified administrative law judges. This proposal provides for administrative consolidation of tribunals to streamline operations and create procedural norms. Many adjudicatory hearings are now held in-house at the regulating agency, and have been open to the perception that they lack the appearance of impartiality and independence. This proposal arose out of a 2005 Charter proposal to set a code of conduct for administrative law judges mirroring the rules applicable to state court judges. The proposal would authorize the Mayor to transfer adjudicatory functions of various tribunals to a single tribunal or agency; authorize the Mayor to convene a committee to evaluate and make recommendations regarding consolidation; authorize the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings to handle the appointment of administrative law judges; and require a public hearing with notice before the mayor’s orders and directives go into effect. Finally, the Commission proposes the enhancement of the adjudicatory functions of the Department of Consumer Affairs by authorizing the Department to hold impartial hearings for violations of the laws the Department enforces. Currently violations of all Consumer Protection laws not related to licensed entities are adjudicated in State Court.
Reviewing Reporting Requirements and Advisory Bodies
The Commission is proposing a mechanism to review the more than 175 reports and advisory bodies established by the Charter to determine if such reports and advisory bodies are currently useful or redundant and ineffective. Many reports have become unnecessary and may be a waste of time and resources for agencies in a time of fiscal austerity. The proposal establishes a Commission on Reporting and Advisory Bodies chaired by the Mayor’s Director of Operations and additionally comprised of the City Council Speaker and two other Council members chosen by the Speaker, the Corporation Counsel, and the director of the Office of Management and Budget and the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications. The proposal also requires the Commission on Reporting and Advisory Bodies to notify and consider input from the groups and organizations subject to or affected by these reports or advisory bodies before deciding to retain, waive in whole or in part, or dissolve a requirement or an advisory body, subject to review by the Council The new legislation would establish factors for the Commission on Reporting and Advisory Boards to consider when reviewing a reporting requirement or advisory body. The proposal also imposes a three-year waiting period before the Commission may review a new reporting requirement; and does not affect the power of the Council to repeal, limit, extend, or enhance a reporting requirement or advisory body.
The City’s Fair Share law was established with the goal of distributing the burdens and benefits of city facilities among local communities. In order to give more transparency to “fair share” decisions, the Commission proposes to amend Section 204(d) of the Charter to require that the map and explanatory text published by the Department of City Planning also include the locations of state and federal transportation and solid waste management facilities, as well as private transportation and waste management facilities which act as the city’s counterpart in providing a public service.
Polls to Open On Time?
On Election day, Tues., 2nd Nov., 2010, do allow extra time to vote because of the new system. Commentators don't see much hope for improvement over September's fiasco, and what with the increased numbers of voters from all parties and a gubernatorial election year, that extra time you allot yourself will be welcome. And do not let the election workers insert your ballot into the scanner. They are not to do so unless asked.
The polls should open on time at 6 a.m. because both the election day workers and the police are to report an hour earlier at 5 a.m. In the September Primary, the police, who bring the keys which open the scanners, arrived late at their previously customary time of 5:30 a.m.. because the N.Y.P.D. manual was not changed to reflect the earlier reporting time! This gross over-sight was brought to the attention of the Board of Elections Commissioners at their weekly full board meeting by your correspondent. Board personnel subsequently met with the Police Dept. to correct the matter.
Keith Wright Strikes Out This Year
County Leader Keith Wright struck out this year. He failed to get his candidates picked for judgeships for a County-wide and a district Civil Court seats or Supreme Court seats.
Daily News Editorial on Elections Board
Elections by dummies: Primary Day voting botch was even worse than we thought
Editorials: Wednesday, October 20th, 2010
Turns out that the disgusted New York City poll worker featured recently in these columns was too kind in estimating the idiot factor at the Board of Elections.
This was the gentleman who told the board at a public meeting that 15% of his colleagues had skipped or failed a basic competency test - and that one sat through the training class with his tongue hanging out beneath glazed eyes.
Well, a study out yesterday from state Controller Tom DiNapoli includes a survey showing that fully 43% of the workers entrusted to operate the machinery of democracy got no training, never completed the training or flunked the open-book test. And they weren't the only dim bulbs.
DiNapoli also found that Board of Elections honchos set different passing scores in different boroughs - accepting as few as 15 of 25 correct answers in the Bronx, Manhattan and Queens, 16 in Brooklyn and 20 on Staten Island.
Test graders in Manhattan even botched the task by using an answer key with multiple errors.
With geniuses like this in charge, it's no wonder the rollout of newfangled voting machines on Sept. 14 was such a fiasco.
DiNapoli found hundreds of polling stations that opened late, some by as much as 2-1/2 hours; at least 700 cases of equipment failure, and dozens more incidents in which poll workers steered voters wrong and violated their privacy.
All this is the responsibility of the board's executive director, George Gonzalez, who has loudly protested that the election went just fine. Heaven help the voters in November.