City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn today announced a comprehensive overhaul
of the City Council’s budget allocation process, continuing efforts to
strengthen accountability and increase transparency. The reforms include:
transforming the Speaker’s program allocations into a competitive, merit-based
Request For Proposals (RFP) process; creating an Independent Compliance Office
within the Council to monitor budget and procurement actions; and, strengthening
the requirements for awarding funds for local initiatives, including adoption of
rigorous new certification requirements for recipients developed in consultation
with the Office of Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.

“The people of New York must have full faith in the way public dollars are
allocated,” said Speaker Quinn. “We have made significant progress in improving
the budget process over the last two years, and I remain fully committed to
making even more reforms and further strengthening the system. We owe it to the
people of New York City to redouble our efforts and make this Council more
transparent than the one we inherited.”

Dick Dadey, Executive Director of Citizens Union praised today’s announcement
and said, “Citizens Union supports Speaker Quinn’s announced reforms to bring
further transparency, new oversight and increased inclusiveness to a merit based
decision making process of the City Council’s review and enactment of the city
budget. Her proactive response to address the past practice of some member items
is very encouraging to see happen. Speaker Quinn is a reform leader in city
government and these actions today speak to her continued leadership in this

“We think that these reforms will increase fairness and transparency in the
giving out of funds by the Speaker and by Council Members,” said Gene
Russianoff, Senior Attorney for the New York Public Interest Research Group
(NYPIRG). “These changes are in a line with other major past reforms adopted by
Speaker Quinn and the Council, including more transparency for member items,
greater disclosure of lobbying and lower limits on contributions by individuals
doing business with the City.”

Changes to the Speaker’s Program Allocations

The funds traditionally allocated by the Speaker will now be distributed through
a public competitive, merit-based RFP process. This initiative will be modeled
after the successful merit-based funding system implemented under the Department
of Cultural Affairs last year. The Speaker, in consultation with her colleagues,
will establish funding priorities, and groups will compete within those areas in
a process overseen by the Mayor’s Office of Contract Services. The criteria set
will delineate the specific types of groups and the uses for the funding. For
example, one RFP could be targeted at alleviating hunger with funding to small,
community-based organizations working in high poverty areas.

The Mayor’s Office of Contract Services will assist in assuring that the RFP’s
reflect the areas and criteria set forth by the Speaker and the Council. The RFP
process will be structured in a way that will help smaller organizations meet
the new requirements, in order to ensure they are not shut out of the process.

Establishment of Independent Compliance Officer

The Speaker announced the creation of an Independent Compliance Office whose
responsibilities will include ensuring that the Council adheres to all
procurement rules, charter mandates and Comptroller directives. Additionally,
this office will assist in developing best practices and heightened local
initiative review. The Compliance Officer will report to the Speaker and General
Counsel. The Speaker called for a change to the Charter to make the position
permanent and independent, set at a four-year term to overlap Speaker terms and
only removable for cause.

Strengthening Requirements for Local Initiatives

Local initiatives will now be subjected to a more thorough review and
certification process to be developed in consultation with New York State
Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s office. Under this new process, there will be a
significant increase in the requirements for any community organization to
receive funding through local initiatives, including:

* Expanding the review process for groups that receive funding, ensuring the
Council more effectively monitors the allocated funds;

* Moving up deadlines to eliminate last minute budget add-ons; and

* Requiring additional disclosures to eliminate possible conflicts of interest.

Searchable Database of All Funding Requests

In a further effort to increase transparency, the Council will create an online
searchable database, modeled after the Attorney General’s Project Sunlight
Initiative, containing all applications from any organization that applies for
funding from the Council. The database will be updated within ten business days
of adoption of any budget allocation. Links on the Council’s database and the
City Clerk’s lobbying database will make it easier for the public to
cross-reference information on funding with lobbying and client registration

Finally, the Council will release data on Council funded initiatives and
programs (Schedule C) prior to budget adoptions, at least 24 hours before the
Council votes on the budget. This step will ensure a more public review of all
funding allocations.

“The reforms to the discretionary funding process as announced today by Speaker
Quinn are solid steps towards giving the budget process further transparency,”
said Finance Committee Chair David Weprin.

The Rules Reform Working Group, chaired by Council Members Yassky and Garodnick,
will draft proposed rules changes that reflect the reforms announced today.
Those changes will then be referred to the Committee on Rules, Privileges and
Elections, Chaired by Council Member Diana Reyna. After review by the Committee
and full Council, the rules changes will be formally codified.

Council Member David Yassky stated, “I’m proud to stand with Speaker Quinn to
announce these bold reforms. This package will bring more transparency to the
budget process than any legislation in the last two decades.”

“This is the right moment to make some constructive reforms in the Council’s
budget process,” said Council Member Dan Garodnick. “We need to shine the
sunlight on the Council’s budget process and give New Yorkers confidence in
where their money is going and how it is being spent.”

“This is an important beginning that will allow for a more inclusive process of
serving all communities in the City,” said Majority Whip Inez Dickens.

Speaker Quinn has made reforming the budget process one of the hallmarks of her
agenda and has taken a number of significant steps toward creating a more open
and responsive budget process. Over the last two years, the Speaker has
effectively worked to provide more detailed spending information for City
agencies, and publicly list sponsoring Council Members for local initiatives.
The Speaker negotiated a memorandum of understanding with the Corporation
Counsel to increase accountability and transparency on local initiatives funded
with Council Member discretionary funding.

Last year, the Speaker implemented a new process for systematically evaluating
Council initiatives to ensure funding is directed where it is most needed, and
has also proposed connecting spending to the Mayor’s Management Report (MMR) to
further help guide priorities and funding levels. Additionally, the Council has
successfully base-lined funding for a number of citywide services, a process
that limits the threat of drastic budget cuts to vital city services like city
libraries or trash pickup.