Thursday, July 28, 2005

Scott Stringer

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The New York Times October 3, 2004 Sunday

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

The New York Times

October 3, 2004 Sunday

Late Edition - Final

SECTION: Section 14WC; Column 1; Westchester Weekly Desk; Pg. 17

LENGTH: 605 words

HEADLINE: Hope and Reality in Albany

BODY:

It took a meteor to wipe out dinosaurs from the earth. Things are not so simple in Albany. While the near unthinkable occurred in the primary election, at least by New York standards, and three incumbents were ousted, the worst state legislature in the nation is far from evolving into a modern, progressive body. Now, however, some lawmakers are beginning to grasp the public's anger, and there are signs that steadily growing calls for reform are making an impact.

Three Democratic legislators in the Assembly are leading the effort to change the way business is done -- or more often, not done. As this campaign season moves into high gear, voters from both parties should demand to know where their own local candidates stand on these reforms. These three legislators deserve credit for trying. But we don't want to raise false hopes here. Real reform is not going to be quick or easy.

Scott Stringer of Manhattan has adopted the vast majority of the sound recommendations made in a report this summer by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University. Richard Brodsky, who represents Westchester County, would amend the State Constitution, eliminate gerrymandering and convert the Legislature to one house, among other reforms. Michael Gianaris of Queens would focus on fairer representation by taking away the power of the majority parties -- Republicans in the Senate, Democrats in the Assembly -- to draw district lines, a power that all but guarantees victory for incumbents. In 22 years, fewer than three dozen lawmakers have failed in their bid for re-election.

Some of Mr. Stringer's proposals would require the lawmakers to behave like members of a responsible legislature -- holding real public hearings on all important bills and actually showing up to vote. (Currently both the Assembly and Senate have convenient systems that allow members to check in once and be counted as voting yes on everything for the rest of the day -- even if they are on the golf course.) By rough count, 95 percent of bills are approved without floor debate, in both chambers. The committees, which are largely a joke, hold infrequent hearings and issue few reports. Procrastination is rampant, meaning that important bills are held until the final days, even hours, of legislative sessions, allowing no time for proper consideration. Mr. Stringer's ideas for more transparent behavior may look superficial, but they're important.

The real key to reform, however, lies in Mr. Gianaris's proposal to end the dismal system that perpetuates incumbents in both chambers. If voters want to end a system that allows each chamber to blame arcane parliamentary maneuvers in the other for the failure of important bills, they must pry the power to fix legislative district boundaries from party leaders.

All three of the lawmakers leading this reform drive have their eyes on higher elected office. That's not a bad thing, but we would hope that their efforts turn out to be more than just a perfunctory stab at the problems. In a sense, they are speaking for the state's voters, who have begun to see through the baloney that has encased Albany for so long. Rules reform -- once seen as too esoteric to capture the attention of outsiders -- is now moving to the top of the agendas of those who want to be among Albany's movers and shakers, in much the same way that issues like school funding did before.

The trick now is to turn words into action. That won't happen unless New Yorkers keep the heat on their representatives. Otherwise, they might have better luck checking the skies for meteors.


The New York Times September 4, 2001 Tuesday

Copyright 2001 The New York Times Company

The New York Times

September 4, 2001 Tuesday

Late Edition - Final

SECTION: Section A; Column 1; Editorial Desk; Pg. 22

LENGTH: 623 words

HEADLINE: For Public Advocate: Betsy Gotbaum

BODY:

The job of public advocate of New York City tends to come in for a lot of sniping. The position has a vague mandate -- to "represent the consumers of city services" -- and a grab bag of seemingly unrelated responsibilities, from taking over if the mayor resigns to serving as an ex officio member of every City Council committee. The present occupant, Mark Green, turned the job into a platform for this year's mayoral campaign, and his departure has attracted a raft of candidates, some of whom may be hoping to follow in his footsteps.

The Democratic primary will choose the next public advocate, since there are no Republican candidates. The leading contenders in the race are two City Council members, Stephen DiBrienza and Kathryn Freed; Betsy Gotbaum, the former parks commissioner; Assemblyman Scott Stringer; and Norman Siegel, the former executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. Ms. Freed has been a fine member of the Council, but she does not have the breadth of some of the other candidates. Mr. Siegel would certainly be good at the part of the job that involves holding press conferences and criticizing city officials. But we believe this position requires more than experience filing lawsuits.

Mr. DiBrienza has the best credentials when it comes to championing the concerns of people who most need an advocate. As a member of the Council he concerned himself with social service issues, particularly problems relating to the homeless, people on welfare and poor children. He was one of the early stars of the new, empowered City Council that followed charter reform in the 1980's.

Unfortunately, he does not seem to have expanded his skills at oversight and negotiation since then. Mr. DiBrienza's investigations into delivery of services too often are limited to needling or even yelling at members of the Giuliani administration whom he hauls before committee hearings.

Mr. Stringer has been an excellent member of the Assembly, a difficult place to shine. He is one of the most promising of the city's next generation of political leaders. But his thoughtful, behind-the-scenes approach to problem solving might be better suited to a legislative career, perhaps in Congress.

Given the amorphous nature of the job, New Yorkers should pick a public advocate who is a self-starter and is capable of building programs and focusing public attention on the dustier corners of city government. Betsy Gotbaum best meets those criteria. As parks commissioner in the Dinkins administration, she was ingenious at finding ways to protect the parks and finance their programs at a time of terrible budget reductions. More recently, as president of the New-York Historical Society, she literally saved this city treasure from financial ruin, converting it into a cultural gem.

Ms. Gotbaum, who promises she is not planning to use the job to run for mayor, should help the next chief executive recast the charter to allow a speedy election in the case of the mayor leaving office unexpectedly. Right now, the dual requirements that the public advocate be a mayor-in-waiting as well as a champion of overlooked citizen-consumers make for an unrealistic job description.

She also vows to put her considerable energies behind such priorities as overseeing school construction and connecting people to their rightful public benefits, like health insurance programs for children and families. Those are projects that would help demonstrate that as public advocate she would not focus on her Manhattan base. In her work with the parks and the Historical Society she has always reached out to neighborhoods around the city, and we are confident she will do the same if she is elected. Our endorsement goes to Betsy Gotbaum.


The New York Times, May 19, 1998

Copyright 1998 The New York Times Company

The New York Times

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May 19, 1998, Tuesday, Late Edition - Final

SECTION: Section A; Page 20; Column 1; Editorial Desk

LENGTH: 184 words

HEADLINE: Topics of The Times;

Help for Battered Women

BODY:

Under current New York State law, any person convicted of a violent crime is not eligible for work release. That usually makes sense, but exceptions could be made for battered women convicted of violent crimes without endangering society at large. Repeated abuse drives some women to assault or kill their abusers. Most of them have no prior criminal record and are unlikely to commit other crimes. They are therefore logical candidates for work-release programs that bridge the transition from prison to community life.

A bill in the State Legislature sponsored by Assemblyman Scott Stringer and Senator Serphin Maltese would give the Commissioner of Correctional Services authority to permit abused inmates to enter work release on a case-by-case basis. The Commissioner would have discretion to deny the privilege to anyone who has a history of violence or criminality unconnected to the abuse. Men who suffer from battered-spouse syndrome would also be eligible. Victims of domestic violence should pay for their crimes, but society also has an interest in giving them a hand in rehabilitation.


The New York Times, July 2, 1997

Copyright 1997 The New York Times Company

The New York Times

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July 2, 1997, Wednesday, Late Edition - Final

SECTION: Section A; Page 22; Column 2; Editorial Desk

LENGTH: 464 words

HEADLINE: Topics of The Times;

An Exception For Battered Women

BODY:

Violent offenders have not been allowed to participate in New York's prison work-release program since 1995, when Gov. George Pataki decided that too many violent criminals were committing new crimes while on furlough. Mr. Pataki was right to rein in the program, but his decision to exclude all those defined as violent offenders was too broad.

Among those barred from the program were battered women who retaliated against their tormentors. Advocates for these women think they deserve an exemption, and legislation now pending in Albany would give the state's corrections commissioner new powers to review their cases. The idea merits support from Mr. Pataki and the State Legislature.

Work release has been an important bridge between the confined, controlled atmosphere of prison and the resumption of life outside. Typically an inmate who is within a year or two of being considered for parole can participate in a work-release program with the approval of the State Commissioner of Correctional Services. Participants generally live in supervised residential facilities while they work or look for work, often with the assistance of nonprofit groups, church organizations, neighbors or friends.

For years the program was limited mainly to nonviolent offenders, but in the late 1980's officials opened it to violent offenders in an effort to ease overcrowding in state prisons. When several furloughed prisoners committed new crimes, Governor Pataki issued an executive order, later codified by the State Legislature, prohibiting anyone convicted of a violent crime from participating in work release. The new policy led to an impressive 60 percent reduction in the number of arrests of inmates on work release. But the policy also punished some offenders who were highly unlikely to commit further crimes.

Two New York City members of the State Legislature, the Republican Serphin Maltese in the Senate and the Democrat Scott Stringer in the Assembly, are sponsoring bills that would allow the corrections commissioner to grant work release to victims of domestic violence who were convicted of assaulting or even killing their abusers. There are no more than 100 of these women, according to the latest estimates. Not all would qualify for work release. The commissioner would have broad discretion to bar women with a history of violence or women who seem likely to cause more trouble.

While the statutory language is gender-neutral, victims of domestic abuse are overwhelmingly women, many of whom have no prior arrest record. Mr. Pataki and many state legislators have become more sensitive to the peculiar nature of domestic violence in recent years. It is now time to offer a second chance to victims whose only crime was to strike back in self-defense.


The New York Times, January 26, 1996

Copyright 1996 The New York Times Company

The New York Times

January 26, 1996, Friday, Late Edition - Final

SECTION: Section A; Page 26; Column 1; Editorial Desk

LENGTH: 560 words

HEADLINE: Albany's Anti-City Vote

BODY:

New York City's budget problems are so severe that Mayor Rudolph Giuliani is thinking about cutting the size of the police force. At the same time, however, the State Legislature is doing its best to make the Mayor's job harder by passing bills that would increase the cost of the city's police and fire departments. The Legislature could not have picked a more inopportune time to cater to special interests. Gov. George Pataki can do Mr. Giuliani a favor by using his veto pen.

Working with an uncharacteristic celerity this week, the State Senate and Assembly both passed a bill that could give some city unions an edge in winning higher salaries. The measure would give the state-run Public Employee Relations Board the power to resolve impasses in contract negotiations between the city and its police and fire unions. Currently the disputes are settled by the local Office of Collective Bargaining.

Under this office, city unions have not won the fat salary increases given to unions in the surrounding suburbs. As a result, officers in low-crime Westchester towns are paid more than those in the Bronx or Brooklyn. The lesson might be that the state board is too generous. Naturally, the city unions prefer to believe their board is too tough, and have lobbied for the switch.

Mr. Pataki, who vetoed a version of this bill last year, proposed a sensible compromise in December. Presently the state board compares each municipality's wage offers with salaries in surrounding towns. The Governor suggested the board also be directed to compare tax rates, the health of the local economy and a municipality's ability to pay for a new contract without hiking taxes.

The Legislature completely ignored his ideas, passing the bill in exactly the form the unions requested. The bill's supporters argued that any lawmaker who voted against the measure was not showing proper support for the city's brave officers and firefighters.

Only four members in each body dared to stand up against that specious position. The four Senators were Velmanette Montgomery of Brooklyn and Franz Leichter of Manhattan, both Democrats, and Robert DiCarlo of Brooklyn and Roy Goodman of Manhattan, Republicans. The Assembly members were James Brennan of Brooklyn and Deborah Glick and Scott Stringer of Manhattan, all Democrats, plus one Republican, John Ravitz of Manhattan.

The bill's strongest opponent is Mr. Giuliani, who has also been one of the most ardent defenders of the Police Department. But now Mr. Giuliani says he may propose reducing the department by 1,000 officers. This is a welcome change of heart for this administration, which has achieved new efficiency through the merger of the transit, housing and city police forces. The city may be able to cut the force even further if it replaces officers doing clerical duties with less expensive civilians.

But Mr. Giuliani's action should remind the unions, and the politicians, that as the cost of maintaining each police officer goes up, the number of officers the city can afford will drop.

The bill now goes to Mr. Pataki, who has been handed a tough political problem by the Republican-dominated State Senate. But if he is to have any credibility in the coming budget wars, he cannot begin the legislative session by imposing a new economic burden on the city. The bill must be vetoed.


The New York Times, September 1, 1989

Copyright 1989 The New York Times Company

The New York Times

September 1, 1989, Friday, Late Edition - Final

SECTION: Section A; Page 26, Column 1; Editorial Desk

LENGTH: 530 words

HEADLINE: The City Council, Old and New: II

BODY:

Unusual weight attaches to the choice of City Council members in Manhattan, as in the other borough races discussed yesterday. The proposed City Charter would make the Council larger and stronger, and members elected this fall would become its nucleus. These are our choices for Manhattan contests (one partially in the Bronx) in the Sept. 12 tests (one partially in the Bronx) in the Sept. 12 Democratic primary for which no serious general Democratic primary for which no serious general election challenges are in sight.

Third District: Carol Greitzer has made many contributions in 20 years on the Council, but lately her effectiveness has been limited. Tom Duane, a stockbroker and leader in the gay community, is a promising newcomer to politics, with interests ranging from zoning to tenants' rights. He could bring the district more energetic leadership, and we support him.

Fourth District: This West Side community could serve as a model for participatory democracy, with eight candidates fighting to succeed Ruth Messinger, who is running for borough president. Most could do the job, some could do it well and Ronnie Eldridge would do it best. ministrator and political leader, but shows a disturbing inclination to compromise her convictions in pursuit of support. Scott Stringer, who runs a state legislator's district office, sees the job through parochial eyes and hasn't yet learned how to balance local and citywide needs.

Jerry Goldfeder, an attorney, and Ethel Sheffer, consultant and former community board chairwould serve honorably. But Ms. Eldridge could would serve honorably. But Ms. Eldridge could serve with distinction. She has worked to improve child care and prisons and to help battered women. Her 30-year career in government and politics, city and state, promises much for the new Council -especially if Ms. Eldridge, sometimes given to weak follow-through, focuses her considerable energies.

Fifth District: In his nearly four years as a city legislator, Hilton Clark has failed to emerge as a leader of the Council or of his Harlem community. Of his two opponents, Virginia Fields, a social worker, and Wilbert Kirby, former member of the city Board of Corrections, the energetic Ms. Fields commands attention and our support.

Sixth District: The incumbent, Stanley Michels, who faces a lively challenge from Adriano Espailwho faces a lively challenge from Adriano Espaillat, continues after three terms to devote himself to the Council with unflagging interest. His energy and his sensitivity to his district's ethnic diversity recommend him for re-election. Mr. Espaillat, a coordinator with a city-funded bail reform agency, might make a promising candidate in the future, but would benefit from less rigidity and more seasoning.

Eighth District (Manhattan and the Bronx): Carolyn Maloney could be more effective, but has nonetheless provided caring representation for more than six years. Adam Clayton Powell 4th, an impressive newcomer, needs experience. William Perkins, deputy chief clerk in the Manhattan Board of Elections, instills no confidence that he would imcouraging Mr. Powell in his pursuit of a political career.

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