Council will also reform requirements for producing voter guides and require that Riker’s Island officials disclose statistics about treatment of inmates
City Hall – Today the City Council will vote on a pair of bills that will require more thorough disclosure in political advertising for both candidates and independent expenditures. The Council will also vote to require the Department of Correction to report on conditions and treatment of inmates at Riker’s Island. Additionally, the Council will vote on legislation reforming the City’s requirement to print Voter Guides. Finally, the Council will vote on legislation authorizing funding for compensation of experienced school bus drivers.
Campaign Finance Disclosure
The Council will vote on two pieces of legislation related to campaign finance disclosure.
Int. No. 6, sponsored by Council Member Dan Garodnick, would require campaign advertisements purchased or authorized by a candidate for a municipal office to include a notice that it was paid for or authorized by the purchasing or authorizing candidate. This requirement is similar to the federal requirement for candidates for federal office.
Int. No. 148-A, sponsored by Council Member Brad Lander, would expand disclosure requirements associated with election expenditures by outside groups, often called independent expenditures. Current law requires that the independent spender be identified on these ads, but the groups making these purchases often have vague names. Under this bill, the top three large donors to the group responsible for the advertisement would be named on the advertisement itself. The advertisement would also point the viewer/listener to a new website, nyc.gov/FollowTheMoney, where the Campaign Finance Board would keep a robust set of data about the groups and their donors.
“Giving voters full information is essential to having open and transparent elections, and these reforms will help make that a reality,” said Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “A more informed electorate will be more able to choose leaders who truly reflect the will of the people.”
“If candidates and independent expenditures are required to own up to their political speech, that speech will fairly be a reflection on them,” said Council Member Garodnick. “These bills will let voters know who is delivering the message that is being communicated, and we need that sort of transparency in our elections.”
“The last election cycle saw a flood of outside money that threatened to overwhelm the spending by the candidates themselves, especially in individual Council races. The only information most voters had about where these ads were coming from was that they were paid for by vague, positive sounding, anonymous entities,” said Council Member Brad Lander. “Some were viciously hostile, which was encouraged by the fact that they were effectively anonymous. This bill will ensure that we get the maximum information possible to voters, when they hear or receive an ad, about who is behind it and make clear that they are not approved by any of the candidates.”
Reporting Requirements for Riker’s Island
Proposed Int. No. 292-A, sponsored by Council Member Daniel Dromm, requires the Commissioner of the Department of Correction, in coordination with the Commissioner of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, to post a quarterly report on its website regarding punitive segregation statistics for city jails, including:
• The total number of inmates housed in punitive segregation
• Their age, race, and gender
• Length of stay
• Whether they’ve been injured, attempted or committed suicide while segregated
• Whether they were sexually or physically assaulted
• Whether they were subject to use of force
• Whether they received certain services such as recreation and showers, medical attention and phone calls as well as a number of other indicators.
Receipt of this data will enable the council and the public to have a better understanding of DOC’s use of punitive segregation and whether changes to the system need to be made.
Additionally, there will be a vote on a resolution sponsored by Council Member Dromm which will call on the New York City Department of Corrections to end the practice of placing individuals returning to City jails into punitive segregation, also known as solitary confinement, to complete time owed.
“Brutality at Riker’s Island has been well documented,” said Council Member Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights, Elmhurst). “Today we take an important first step in changing that culture of brutality. We are enacting legislation aimed at clearly sending a message that we will no longer tolerate the violation of anyone’s constitutional rights, be they incarcerated or not. Requiring a quarterly report from DOC officials detailing among other things, the number of people who have been placed in solitary, the reason for their confinement, the length of their stay, their mental health status and what time inmates receive recreation will help us tackle this inhumane problem. I thank all of the dedicated advocates and my colleagues in City Council who for years have been fighting to help drastically limit and change the way our jails use solitary confinement. I look forward to working with them on finding other ways we can continue to exercise our oversight responsibilities in the future.”
Pre-considered Int. No. 449, sponsored by Council Members I. Daneek Miller and Matthieu Eugene, would provide a subsidy for school bus companies that serve City school children to ensure they maintain experienced drivers, attendants, dispatchers and mechanics. Since 2011, school bus contracts have not included Employee Protection Provisions (“EPPs”). For over 30 years, between 1979 and 2011, school bus drivers, matrons, dispatchers and mechanics had enjoyed important work-place protections provided by the EPPs. In addition to ensuring that the experienced workers were not displaced through the contract bidding process, EPPs protected employees’ wages, benefits, and seniority. In 2011, EPP’s in current school bus contracts were nullified by a decision of the Court of Appeals.
The legislation being considered today seeks to redress the glaring safety and work-place concerns created by the 2011 decision. The Council will vote on providing a subsidy to experienced workers who lost their benefits in the last contract by making grants through the bus companies. This subsidy will last through 2015.
The proposed subsidy is a temporary solution to a long-term problem. Therefore, the Council is voting to adopt a Resolution that would call on the New York State Legislature to pass, and for the Governor to sign, legislation that would mandate employee safeguards for experienced bus drivers, attendants, dispatchers and mechanics as part of all current and future bus contracts.
“School buses serve as the first and last line of contact between our children and their schools on a daily basis,” said Council Member I. Daneek Miller. The educational experience they undergo is framed by this contact and it is essential that we ensure it is a positive and safe one. Through the Employee Protection Provision we can ensure that a well-trained and experienced workforce is maintained and that our children have the experience they deserve during their commutes. I would like to thank the Mayor and Speaker for their leadership and attentiveness to this issue. It is clear that this Council and Administration are truly dedicated to improving the quality of life for families and working people.”
“The passage of this Introduction and Resolution will make a very big difference in the lives of bus drivers, matrons, mechanics and attendants – in addition to their families – throughout the City,” said Council Member Matthieu Eugene. “ At a time when we are working to improve the lives of hard-working people by increasing the minimum wage and enacting the Paid Sick Leave Act, it does not make sense that these fine public servants who protect our families and serve our children face the predicament they are in today. When people hard for so many years with a dedication and love for what they do, it is only right that they are guaranteed good wages and benefits that allow them to live securely and with a sense of contentment with their families and friends.”
Pre-considered Int. No 441. __, sponsored by Council Member Kallos, would create an exception for the normal requirement that the Campaign Finance Board publish and send a voter guide to every registered voter for General Elections. The exception would apply only to a voter guide for a General Election at which both 1) no City officials are up for election (meaning the only potential City issue would be a ballot proposal) and 2) any potential City ballot proposal is not approved by the clerk or a court as legally sufficient at least 60 days before Election Day.
The intent of this bill is to avoid a situation in which the Campaign Finance Board would need to print millions of voter guides for a ballot issue that may not even appear on the ballot due to possible legal issues. In the circumstances covered by the bill, it would save approximately $3 million, according to the administration.
“Offering the voter guide online only in rare instances will save the city money and empower the CFB to carry out its crucial work,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “Printing and mailing a voter guide for a late-submitted referendum that may or may not be on the ballot wastes necessary city resources, when the information can easily be found online. I’m proud of this fix to use technology to streamline processes and save money and time. Thanks to Mayor de Blasio and Speaker Mark Viverito for their continued commitment to smart, 21st Century governance.”