The New York Times has an Unrealistic View of the Vote for a Constitutional Convention

"Throw the bums out" is no solution for a system structured to protect incumbent candidates.

“The New York Times' position on the New York State Constitutional Convention vote is unrealistic. "Throw the bums out" is no solution for a system structured to protect incumbent candidates, and betrays New Yorkers by limiting the possibilities found in the electoral process. By contrast, a state constitutional convention presents a real opportunity for reform even with the flawed procedures that exist (and that the legislature will never change on its own). The election of delegates to a constitutional convention means that 204 positions will open, with no sitting incumbent politicians. We will be challenged to debate and discuss the future of New York State, with public town hall meetings and online forums. The possibility of redefining civic engagement from that of being led by the priorities of party bosses to the concerns of the public is paramount. To call on our neighbors to continue to engage with a rigged system is to advocate for the most corrupt legislature in the United States.” - Betsy Gotbaum, Frederick Schaffer, and Allen Rothstein

Citizens Union Announces Endorsements for 2017 NYC General Election Contests

Makes No Endorsement in Mayoral Race

Citizens Union today announced its endorsements for citywide and City Council contests for the 2017 New York City general election. The full directory is available now by downloadable PDF, with an interactive version to follow shortly.

For the first time in more than 50 years, Citizens Union, by a unanimous vote of its governing board, declined to support any of the candidates running for Mayor. Citizens Union noted a number of Mayor Bill de Blasio's accomplishments during his term but expressed a particular concern that the Mayor's conduct has raised many troubling ethical issues. CU expressed the 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.   

Citizens Union Chair Randy Mastro said: "This is a sad day for Citizens Union that it cannot, in good conscience, support any of the candidates for Mayor, including the incumbent, who has spent most of his tenure engulfed in troubling ethical issues that continue to swirl around him. New Yorkers deserve better than this. And we call upon whoever is elected to commit themselves to ethics reforms that clean up City Hall." Read the full release now.

A NEW START FOR OLD REFORMERS

Errol Louis spoke with newly appointed executive director Betsy Gotbaum and chairman of the board, Randy Mastro on Road to City HallWatch here.


WOMEN MUST EDIT N.Y.'S CONSTITUTION SAYS NEW DIRECTOR, GOTBAUM

"If on Nov. 7, voters decide to hold a constitutional convention — as a state, we get the opportunity to say yes or no to the idea once every 20 years — that could produce a sea change in representation by women in New York. For the first time ever, New York could have a Constitution that women play a major role in shaping. Nothing, in fact, would prevent a majority of delegates being women." Read the full editorial.

CITIZENS UNION CALLS FOR INCUMBENT DISTRICT ATTORNEYS AND DISTRICT ATTORNEY CANDIDATES TO NOT ACCEPT CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS FROM LAWYERS WITH PENDING MATTERS

One of the principal matters of concern to Citizens Union is that of the financing of political campaigns and how the process could compromise policy. This week, Randy Mastro, Chair of Citizens Union, sent letters to the District Attorneys of New York City, on behalf of the board. Incumbent District Attorneys were asked to publicly and voluntarily declare that they will not accept and, indeed, will return campaign contributions from any lawyer of a law firm that has business before their office or comes to represent a client in a matter before them. Additionally, any candidates for the elected position of District Attorney should make the same commitment and agree to return campaign contributions from any lawyer or law firm that the candidate knows during the campaign, or comes to know, after the campaign. Citizens Union recognizes that there are other reforms worthy of consideration, including changes in state ethics laws and public financing of campaigns for District Attorney, and we look forward to advancing such reforms. In the meantime, we urge the District Attorneys of the City of New York to make clear declarations that they will no longer accept contributions from lawyers or law firms having business before their offices. Read the letters.

STATEMENT OF CHAIR RANDY MASTRO ON BEHALF OF CITIZENS UNION

 "I am pleased to announce that Betsy Gotbaum will become the new Executive Director of Citizens Union. As a champion of good government and long-time distinguished public servant, Betsy exemplifies all of the qualities and principles that Citizens Union stands for. Indeed, for more than 120 years, we have championed honesty, integrity, transparency, and accountability in government. And we cannot imagine a better leader than Betsy Gotbaum to help us achieve our ambitious agenda to deliver for all New Yorkers the good government they deserve."


CITIZENS UNION PUBLISHES CIRCUMVENTING DEMOCRACY: THE FLAWED SYSTEM FOR FILLING VACANCIES FOR ELECTED OFFICE IN NEW YORK

Citizens Union first began reporting on special elections and vacancies in the New York State Legislature in 2007 and has issued periodic updates to the original briefing paper over the last ten years (2011, 2015, 2017 – prospective). The accompanying data serves as interim reporting on legislative offices that were first filled or will be filled imminently, by special election. A full report on special elections and vacancies in the state legislature is currently being planned for release later this year. Read the report now. 

Listen to "What's the Data Point" a weekly podcast hosted by Ben Max of Gotham Gazette and Maria Doulis of the Citizens Budget Commission connecting data points to the lives of New Yorkers.

 

CITIZENS UNION PUBLISHES 2017 PRIMARY VOTERS DIRECTORY

Prepare for the New York Primary Election 2017 with our candidate questionnaires, evaluations, and preferences. Still, want a print copy? Not a problem, download the Citizens Union 2017 Primary Voters Directory as a pdf file. Browse the directory online and remember to vote on Tuesday, September 12th.

CITIZENS UNION OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK ANNOUNCES CANDIDATE PREFERENCES FOR NEW YORK CITY OFFICES IN SEPTEMBER 2017 PRIMARY ELECTIONS

Citizens Union Chair Randy Mastro announced Citizens Union’s preferences in 14 New York City Council races and the Brooklyn DA race for the September 12th primary election. The current District Attorney of Kings County is CU’s preferred candidate. Five Council incumbents were among the 14 Council candidates. Citing their effectiveness in city government and commitment to reform, CU preferred Manhattan Councilmembers Margaret Chin (D-1), Helen Rosenthal (D-6), Mark Levine (D-7), Queens Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley (D-30), Brooklyn Councilmember Carlos Menchaca (D-38). Read the full press release.

CITIZENS UNION CONDEMNS PRESIDENT TRUMP'S REMARKS CONCERNING CHARLOTTESVILLE VIOLENCE

Since its inception 120 years ago, Citizens Union, New York's pre-eminent non-partisan good government group committed to uniting New Yorkers to build a better democracy, has focused on demanding more of our local government and local elected officials. For the first time in its history, Citizens Union must speak out and demand more of the President of the United States. A leader, who, in the wake of the Charlottesville horror, has done irreparable damage to the reputation of our country and the democratic principles for which it stands, defended the indefensible and given encouragement to racists to bring their platform of hate and violence to other cities. Read the full statement.

TODAY IN GOTHAM GAZETTE
Citizens Union Foundation's watchdog publication Gotham Gazette provides New Yorkers with illuminating analyses on policy, long-form interviews with thought leaders, and under-reported stories about the actions of government and government officials. Read Gotham Gazette's latest stories.

CIVIC GROUPS LAUNCH CAMPAIGN SUPPORTING NEW YORK STATE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION
As an overwhelming majority of New Yorkers are fed up with the mess in Albany that has prevented needed change in how our democracy is practiced and how our state government meets the needs of its citizens, a number of civic groups today launched a coordinated campaign to support a constitutional convention to deliver the change New Yorkers demand. Read the full press release.

  

VOTE YES FOR A NEW YORK STATE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION
In the November 2017 election, the people of New York State will vote on whether they support convening a State Constitutional Convention. Citizens Union vigorously urges New Yorkers to vote YES. We firmly believe that New Yorkers must stand for a democracy worthy of its promise. A Constitutional Convention provides a once in a generation opportunity to “open” the state constitution and make much-needed reforms to improve the performance of our state government, strengthen the integrity of our political institutions and reform our broken 20th-century voting and electoral systems. Read the full statement.

SPENDING IN THE SHADOWS: TOTAL AMOUNT IS NEARLY $13 BILLION
Citizens Union has examined New York’s FY 2018 Enacted Budget and found that $1 billion in nonspecific lump sum funding “pots” were added to the FY 2018 Executive Budget proposed by the Governor, bringing the total amount of such funding that Citizens Union has identified to nearly $13 billion. Read the report .

CIVIC GROUPS HAIL NEW YORK STATE ASSEMBLY PASSAGE OF PACKAGE OF COMPREHENSIVE VOTING REFORMS
The Voter Friendly Ballot Act is a much-needed reform that will remove unnecessary text and political party emblems from already cluttered ballots. We are pleased to see this package of bills pass in the Assembly and hope that the Senate will pass these reforms before the session ends. Read the press release


SEEDS OF CORRUPTION ARE PLANTED AS BILLIONS IN TAXPAYER DOLLARS ARE SPENT IN MURKY PROCESS
Without transparency as to how this money is spent, the environment for the corrosive impact of money in politics is primed. Read the media advisory

CITIZENS UNION RELEASES REPORT ON NONSPECIFIC FUNDING IN THE FY18 NYS EXECUTIVE BUDGET
Today, Citizens Union released the latest edition of Spending in the Shadows, our report on unspecified lump sum spending in New York’s FY 2018 Executive budget. The report examines numerous pots of money under state government control that have few spending criteria, few constraints, and little public accountability – all part of a recipe for public corruption.  Specifically, this edition documents $4.3 billion in funds that are subject to spending decisions by individual elected officials, representing an increase of nearly $2 billion from last year’s executive budget. The report also documents billions of dollars in other opaque funds that lack criteria for spending and does not specify any official as having authority.