As Commissioner,
Ms White Named
Henry J. Stern is the founder and president of New York Civic.
Monday, June 18th, 2012

The resignation of Adrian Benepe as Parks Commissioner and the appointment by Mayor Bloomberg of Veronica M. White as his successor may indicate a new attitude by City Hall as to what a parks commissioner should be.

For your information, here is Ms. White’s bio: http://mobilize.org/2011/09/veronica-m-white/.

The position held by Robert Moses from 1934 to 1960, once one of the most powerful in city government, will, presumably for the next 16 months, be held by someone whose experience is unrelated to parks. With relatively little time remaining in the administration and an anticipated exodus next year of those who are able to find jobs on their own, it will be difficult to design, fund and implement new programs.

The city’s parks have thrived in the last ten years, due to the commitment of Mayor Bloomberg to minimize the effect of budget reductions and the appointment to the agency of dozen of competent professionals. A great deal of the good and the new in this administration has come from Parks & Recreation. It would be a shame to see this energy, zeal and momentum dissipate even before the election.

Supreme Court Will Decide,
But Has It Made Up Its Mind?
Henry J. Stern is the founder and president of New York Civic.
Monday, June 11th, 2012

Elections are the best way to decide public issues in a democracy. The word democracy means ‘rule by  the people’, which is a fair and reasonable way to determine which policies a government should follow, and who should be selected to lead that government. A basic principle of democracy is one man, one vote, a rule the courts have frequently invoked to determine questions brought before judges.

One man, one vote (now more properly one person one vote) is meant to support the concept that each citizen’s influence should be equal. In reality, however, some people’s influence is always greater than others’, no matter what system of reckoning is used.

The most obvious barometer of influence is money. A man who can give a million dollars to a candidate is much more likely to be listened to than a contributor of $1. It would be impossible to write a law under which every citizen’s views would receive equal attention and respect. But it remains a legitimate goal of reformers to minimize the disparity in resources between candidates.

Campaign Finance
Reform In Albany
(Part 3 of 8)
Evan Palenschat received his J.D. from Columbia Law School
Thursday, May 31st, 2012

Evan Palenschat examines the various proposals for reform of the State's campaign finance rules through the lens of compliance with recent Supreme Court decisions.

 

 

Albany's campaign finance system may be in need of a makeover. Soaring contribution limits, major loopholes, lax enforcement, and the use of corporate and special interest money are only a few of the problems confronted by the state. In March, a nationwide State Integrity Investigation study conducted by the Center for Public Integrity gave New York a "D-" for "political financing."

In response to a seemingly apparent need for reform, Governor Andrew Cuomo promised to introduce a bill on campaign finance reform during his State-of-the-State address this year. Cuomo said he embraced "public financing, matched contributions, lower limits, and increased enforcement . . . ."

A coalition of pro-reform groups has taken Cuomo up on his promise. The groups, which include several good government organizations and celebrity philanthropists, led an email campaign on April 18 asking 1 million New Yorkers to contact Governor Cuomo and pressure him to reform the way New York funds elections.

Is Bluman v. FEC A Retreat From Citizens United?
(Part 2 of 8)
Evan Palenschat received his J.D. from Columbia Law School
Friday, May 25th, 2012

In this second installment in our series of articles about campaign finance in the wake of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, our resident law expert, Evan Palenschat, investigates the apparent contradictions to Citizens United in a subsequent ruling.

 

 

On January 9, 2012 the Supreme Court summarily affirmed a district court ruling that foreigners living the U.S. may not contribute or spend money in an attempt to influence U.S. elections. The case, Bluman v. F.E.C., is interpreted by some as a refusal by the Court to expand its now infamous 2010 decision in Citizens United v. F.E.C. In that case, the Court found that corporations and unions had an unfettered First Amendment right to spend money, independently, in an attempt to influence U.S. elections. The Court did not decide whether federal law could prohibit foreigners from contributing to candidates or from independently spending money to influence elections. However, one of the central principles of the Citizens United decision was that the law could not discriminate based on the speaker’s identity under the First Amendment. The federal law banning foreign spending seemed to do just that.

In response to this open question, plaintiff’s lawyers chose two individuals that were perfectly situated to invalidate the federal law. Benjamin Bluman is a Canadian citizen residing and working as a lawyer in a New York City firm. The other plaintiff, Asenath Steiman, is a dual citizen of Canada and Israel on a temporary visa authorizing her to work in the U.S. for three years. She is a medical resident at a hospital in New York. Both plaintiffs claimed that they wanted to make contributions to candidates for federal election and independently spend to voice their opinions during elections. Both Bluman and Steiman were integrated into U.S. society and were engaged in productive work here. The fear of foreign influence corrupting our elections did not seem to be present in this case.

Sex Abuse Charges
Will Be Probed
Henry J. Stern is the founder and president of New York Civic.
Friday, May 18th, 2012

 

 

Religion and politics are two subjects which should, preferably, be discussed separately. The topics are, however, hopelessly and inevitably jumbled with regard to allegations of the sexual abuse of children by rabbis and priests.

Unfortunately, there appears in some communities a state of affairs where this is tolerated. In these instances the abuse is concealed, allegedly to protect the reputations of those who may be accused of misconduct which may or may not have taken place. In some cases complainants are shunned by their neighbors as the group rallies around its members, who may be the guilty parties.

This problem has affected religious denominations worldwide for centuries and one could ask if the issue is endemic in self-selecting communities.

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