Budget Disputes
Vary In Intensity
Depending On Funds Available
And Ambitions Of Lawmakers
Henry J. Stern is the founder and president of New York Civic.
Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

Like nature itself, city government deals with different matters in different seasons of the year. First is the season of the budget, which begins with requests for funds by agencies and advocates, most of which are politely ignored because there are insufficient resources to fund them. The word most heard at budget time is no.

Agency budget hearings can be helpful if public attention is called to new issues, or important questions which have been neglected. Many years ago these hearings, especially those on the education budget, were considered important public events. Hundreds of witnesses from communities all around the city would wait hours for their group to be heard at City Hall. The relevant borough president would stay and hear the parents and others who came to testify on overcrowding and school construction.

Over the years, the custom of mass participation in school budget hearings declined. Because of years of disappointment, people were less inclined to believe that real change would result from their participation. Increasingly, substitutes were sent to represent elected officials at hearings.

State Legislators Support
Insiders on District Lines
Henry J. Stern is the founder and president of New York Civic.
Friday, March 16th, 2012

The golden age of co-operation between the branches of New York State government appears to have settled into an era of relative tranquility, during which traditional relationships between longtime incumbents are likely to continue their gravitational impulse on each other, rather than remake state government into anything much more significant than it has been since the years of drift began.

When unexpected events occur, there are likely to be changes which may be required to avert fiscal catastrophe. To the extent that it legally is able to do so, the system will absorb these changes so as to minimize their effect. It is like the effect of well-regulated air conditioning, minimizing the variations that actually take place from time to time.

Deputy Mayor Holloway
Tells Columbia Students
To Keep Government
Focused on Environment
Henry J. Stern is the founder and president of New York Civic.
Thursday, March 1st, 2012

At a February 23rd speech at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs, Deputy Mayor for Operations Caswell Holloway described his role in the administration and highlighted, among his many tasks, the expansion of green infrastructure and how to treat the one billion gallons of wastewater the city produces daily. While the entire talk by Holloway, who previously served in the Bloomberg Administration as Commissioner of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, is well worth your while to watch on YouTube, we refer you specifically to the final question of the evening, which we posed to Deputy Mayor Holloway at 1 hour, 9 minutes, and 47 seconds into the talk.

The transcript of the ensuing exchange is posted below:

Henry Stern: The city has elections every four years and what assurance is there that the next administration will have the attitude that this one did?

Edward C. Sullivan served in the New York State Assembly from 1977 to 2002.
Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

When Rick Santorum uttered these words in a political debate last week, a gasp rippled through the audience. They were stunned, not so much at the content of what he said, but at the fact that he said it at all. The naked truth is as arresting as the naked body, partially because its appearance is almost as rare, and partially because it forces us to deal with reality. Reality is always a little unnerving.

The reality of the naked body can be, and usually is, covered over with clothes. The reality of the naked truth can be, and often is, covered over with myths, suppositions and traditions. It is a major myth of American politics that elected officials of our democratic structures, local, state and Federal, gather in the capital, discuss ideas that are presented for action, and then vote on those ideas, each according to his or her conscience.

There is also the counter myth, which is that elected officials are all bribed by those who contribute to their campaigns, and vote according to the bribers' wishes. "Team sport" is not mentioned in the myths.

Edward Koch served as New York City Mayor from 1978 to 1989.
Friday, February 24th, 2012

Justice Stephen Breyer, a member of the liberal wing of the U.S. Supreme Court, has a vacation home on the Caribbean paradise island nation of Saint Kitts and Nevis in the West Indies. Last week the Times reported: "Justice Breyer was in his vacation home with his wife, Joanna, and guests when [a] man entered the home around 9 p.m. The man took about $1,000 in cash and fled."

I read elsewhere that the man was armed with a machete and that the Justice and his wife were playing bridge with guests.

The incident recalled for me the time I was running for mayor of New York City. The year was 1977. Crime was rampant at the time in the city as opposed to today. New York City now is probably the safest big city in America with the lowest crime rate in the country for big cities. One of the street jokes back in the bad old days was that a conservative was a liberal who had just been mugged.

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