Council will also vote on requiring transparency on City-administered veterans’ programs and worker cooperatives

City Hall – Today the City Council will vote on a package of bills reforming the Veterans Advisory Board and providing greater transparency on programs serving veterans in New York City. Additional, the Council will vote on legislation requiring city agencies to produce annual reports on worker cooperatives in New York City. The Council will also vote legislation amending the administrative code in relation to the removal of downed trees.

Veterans Advisory Board

The Veterans Advisory Board advises the Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs (MOVA) and serves as a liaison between the veterans’ community and city government. However, many veterans have expressed concern about the Board’s lack of transparency and accountability to the community, including insufficient knowledge as to the Board’s activities and an inability to participate in Board meetings. The Council will vote on two bills to reform the board, making it more accountable, more accessible, and more reflective of the veterans’ community.

Introduction 611-A, sponsored by Council Member Mathieu Eugene, would expand the membership of the Board from nine members to eleven members, providing both the Mayor and the Council Speaker with one additional appointee to ensure broad representation from across the veterans’ community. Additionally, it would increase the Board’s accessibility to veterans and their families by requiring each Board member to create an electronic mail address devoted to Board-related business that MOVA will be required to post publicly on its website.

This legislation would take effect thirty days after enactment into law.

“New York City has always been a welcoming home for veterans because we understand that we have a solemn duty to them that we must keep,” said Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “We will do everything possible to ensure that their transition to civilian life is a smooth transition.”

“As a City, we must do everything that we can to see that all men and women who served our nation so honorably and bravely receive the resources that enable them to live well after their years of military service have concluded,” said Council Member Matthieu Eugene. “The legislation that is being voted on by the City Council at the stated meeting will strengthen the Veterans Advisory Board’s ability to reach out to our veterans and ensures that their needs are better fulfilled by the government.”

Additionally, 619-A, sponsored by Council Member Eric Ulrich, would require the board to meet publicly at least five times per year, including once in each borough, and to ensure that advance notice of such meetings is given in accordance with applicable state law. Additionally, such meetings would be required to be recorded and broadcast for the benefit of those unable to attend. The Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs would further be required to post advance notice of the time, date, and location of each public meeting on its website. Finally, the bill would require that the Board’s Charter-mandated annual report to the Council and Mayor include, if appropriate, policy and legislative recommendations to MOVA and the Council.

This legislation would take effect immediately upon enactment into law.

“The Veterans Advisory Board does great work and strengthens the lines of communication between city government and local vets,” said Council Member Eric Ulrich, Chair of the Council Veterans Committee. “This legislation will allow for greater public input that will only enhance the ability of the Board to meet the challenges facing veterans and their families in our city.”

Veteran Services Data Transparency

Introduction 600-A, sponsored by Council Member Paul Vallone, addresses benefits for New York’s veterans. As a result of their military service, veterans in New York City are entitled to a number of benefits in areas such as housing and employment. However, it is unclear how many veterans are applying for and receiving such benefits. Such information would enable the City to identify where greater outreach and resources are needed so that more veterans may utilize such programs. This bill would require city agencies to make certain information more transparent by providing the Council, the Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs, and the Veterans Advisory Board with annual data as to a number of programs administered by City agencies.

This legislation would take effect immediately upon enactment into law.

“With the passage of my bill, we have taken a great stride towards ensuring that every veteran who returns to NYC is given every opportunity to prosper,” said Council Member Paul Vallone. “The data we will now have will go a long way towards allowing the Council and Administration to make effective and fruitful efforts at ensuring that veterans are taking full advantage of the services offered to them. I am proud to have passed this legislation, and as a member of the Committee on Veterans, I look forward to continuing to fight for every veteran that calls NYC home.”

Worker Cooperatives

Worker cooperatives are businesses that are owned and controlled by their employees. The managerial structures of worker cooperatives differ from other types of businesses in that the administration and governance of worker cooperatives are determined by the workers themselves. While a cooperative management structure provides opportunities for increased worker engagement within a business, it also creates unique obstacles for the business when competing for government contracts.

Introduction 423-A, sponsored by Council Member Rosenthal, would require City agencies to identify those obstacles and make recommendations on how to enable worker cooperatives to be more competitive in their attempts to do business with the City. The following reports would be required under the legislation:

• An annual report from the Mayor’s Office of Contract Services (“MOCS”) detailing the number and total dollar value of city contracts awarded to worker cooperatives in the previous year, including the percentage of city contracts awarded to worker cooperatives.

• An annual report from the Department of Small Business Services (“SBS”) detailing the number of worker cooperatives assisted by SBS in the previous year, the industries in which those worker cooperatives operate, the communities in which they are headquartered, and the specific services provided by SBS to enhance the ability of worker cooperatives to compete for City contracts. This report would also include specific details about each worker cooperative assisted by SBS.

• A report every three years from SBS (in consultation with MOCS) describing the difficulties or obstacles that worker cooperatives encounter when competing for city contracts and recommendations from SBS on how to limit those difficulties or obstacles, as well as an assessment of the impact of services provided by SBS over the previous three years to worker cooperatives.

• A single report due January 1, 2016 from SBS (in consultation with MOCS) summarizing the workshops, technical assistance, financial assistance and any other assistance provided to worker cooperatives during the 2015 Fiscal Year by entities funded through SBS’s 2015 Worker Cooperative Business Development Initiative detailed in Schedule C of the Fiscal Year 2015 Adopted Expense Budget

This legislation would take effect immediately upon enactment.

“When we talk about the economic divide between rich and poor, we look to economic engines that can close the divide. Some look to the finance sector or technology. I believe that the economic engine of NYC is its workers. Worker cooperatives lift people from dead-end jobs into the middle class. These workers enjoy higher wages, steady hours, and stable jobs. I am committed to finding ways for the City to support and expand worker co-operatives, and that starts with my bill, Int. 423-A, which requires the Department of Small Business Services to report on how it engages with and supports worker coops,” said Council Member Helen Rosenthal.

Removal of Hazardous Downed Trees

Introduction 74-A, sponsored by Council Member King, would require the Parks Department, along with the Office of Emergency Management, Department of Sanitation and local electric corporations to develop a tree removal protocol so that fallen trees that have become entangled with electric cables or pose other safety hazards be removed more quickly after a severe weather event.

This legislation would take effect 90 days after enactment.

“The purpose of Int. No. 74-A is to bring about a more accountable – common sense approach between our city agencies and local utilities in cases where downed or damaged trees on city property must be removed. Had this tree protocol removal been in place during the time of Hurricane Sandy, or any other severe weather condition that left numerous downed trees, which caused thousands of New Yorkers to lose power, the removal process would have been much simpler and swifter. Communications is everything! This piece of legislation helps our agencies, utilities and residents communicate better. I want to thank Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and my colleague Council Member Mark Levine, chair of the Committee on Parks and Recreation, for making this all happen,” said Council Member Andy King.