MYD | Take Back New York


Published on

MYD, the Manhattan Young Democrats, explain key causes behind corruption and dysfunction in the New York State Legislature, with a particular focus on the State Senate. We explore the story of the June 8 Coup and the relevance of Albany to the lives of everyday New Yorkers -- and lay out a plan for how to restore democracy to state governance and make it work better for New Yorkers everywhere.

There's also a short video version of the presentation available here:

Published in: News & Politics
1 Like
  • Be the first to comment

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide
  • So it’s worth noting that some of the problem could be structural. Here in NY, we citizens are asked to vote A TON. Pose question to room: Who here can name all 16 elected officials you choose to represent you? And who can name every single person serving in that office right now? Anyone? ….Well, here’s the list. Seriously, who has that kind of time? It’s overwhelming.
  • One easy solution to this burdensome civic duty would be to move to Canada. There, you’ only have to vote for three elected officials.
  • This proliferation of elected officials makes a difference. It means we can’t just point the finger at one person and hold them accountable. It leads to a lot of finger-pointing among elected officials about who’s problem it is, of course, but more importantly – it makes it really hard for the average person who doesn’t work in politics to figure out what the heck is going on. It’s really hard to understand. The diffusion of responsibility makes it hard to hold people to account. And it feeds voter apathy.
  • As with any organization, we need to think about our priorities. Given limited resources – and the limited time we all have, given most of us don’t work in politics full-time – we’re going to focus on the State this year. In particular, we’re focused on the legislature, where much of the dysfunction of NY manifests itself. But why should you, as a young person in NYC who has far cooler and more fun things to think about than the legislative machinations in Albany, care about what goes on up there? Here are three reasons, though there are many many more.
  • Most people don’t realize this because of the inherent ‘sexiness’ of federal politics (particularly Presidential elections), but the majority of laws we interact with on a daily basis are state laws. Federal laws certainly get the limelight frequently, but for bread-and-butter impact on our lives, state laws are pretty friggin important. On marriage equality, the State controls the law. The MTA – a large part of the budget and the funding mechanism and even how the whole system operates, the state is involved. Taxes – we need approval from them. Public schools requires sign-off from them. Even healthcare, which has largely been an issue unfolding at the federal level, is significantly regulated by the state. We could pull a Massachusetts and try to do something about healthcare at the state level, but that’s a story for another day.
  • From a purely economic point of view, we should all care what goes on in Albany. When was the last time you gave away billions to a group of people and didn’t know what happened to it? Better to keep an eye on them. Just to give an example here of the systematic screwing of NYC that is going on, here’re some figures pulled from Bloomberg’s testimony to the state. Now, we disagree with Bloomberg on a lot of things, but I think we can all agree that he’s pretty right about how unfair this budget is to the city versus the rest of the state. So in general, the state draws about 50% of its tax base from the city. There’s this thing called revenue-sharing, where the state gives revenue back to the local governments as part of their budget. This year, due to the increasingly dire state budget crisis, most localities are seeing this figure cut by between 1 and 5%. That seems reasonable, given the crisis we’re in. That figure for NYC? 100%. Yes, that’s right. The Governor’s budget calls for a 100% removal of NYC’s revenue-sharing. That amounts to over $328M. Overall, proposed budget cuts for the city amount to about $1.3B, which is the equivalent of about 19,000 city employees’ jobs. This is grossly unfair, and basically balanced the state budget on the backs of New Yorkers. It’s unfair. So that’s reason #3 why you should care what goes on in Albany.
  • The final, biggest reason of why you should pay attention to what goes on in Albany gets at the root cause of much of the dysfunction of NY state. Let’s take a look at this Wikipedia entry for the word “democracy”. Key sentence: Democracies in general include two principles, All citizens being equal before the law and having equal access to power.
  • The truth of the matter is that the state legislature is not a democratic institution at all. It fails on both of the important principles set forth by Wikipedia. 1 Not all citizens have equal access to power in Albany. And 2. Not all citiziens are equal to the law, particularly the ones who are writing the laws themselves. We here at MYD like to refer to this as (click to float word) “#democracyfail”.
  • You might be surprised to learn that the NYS Legislature has been named the country’s most dysfunctional by the Brennan Center at the NYU Law School. Why? Because it deprives citizens of full representation in Albany. What that means is, not all of us have equal access to power.
  • How many people have heard the phrase “three men in a room”? It’s a common adage used in Albany. What it means is that when it comes passing legislation that will affect 20 million New Yorkers, only three people matter: The speaker of the Assembly; the President of the Senate; and the Governor. This is great news for these three men (click to insert three stick figures) and not so great for everyone else (click to insert “Well fuck” quote with other people)
  • The power structure of three men in a room is legitimized and made possible by the rules. This is Leaders control the chamber floor. Only bills that will pass are brought to the floor. All discussion on bills is done behind closed doors. Committees and sub-committees rarely hold hearings or discuss issues. The committee chair, who is appointed by the leader/speaker, sets the agenda. There are no conference committees between the two houses, as there are in the US Congress. Instead, the two leaders meet behind closed doors to decide on the legislation.
  • Member items – The leaders dole out over 100 million dollars to members to be spent in their districts. Which members receive money, and how much is solely at the discretion of the leaders. Money for offices and staff – Unlike the US Congress, each member does not get the same amount to spend on staff. The leaders decide who gets what. Committee assignments – Are assigned by the leader. Each committee chair comes with a “lulu” of up to $20,000. The leader decides which committees the members are allowed to sit on. Housekeeping fund – In each house, both parties have PAC funds called “housekeeping funds”. Unlike contributions to individual candidates, there are NO contributions for these funds. The leaders are able to use these funds to dole out millions of dollars to help loyal members get re-elected.
  • The second part of #democracyfail in NY is that a lot of electeds and their friends consider themselves above the law. This is the official portrait of the NYS Legislature. Well, not really, but it might as well be.
  • The LEC meets behind closed doors and does not report their findings to the public. It is made up of members, to “police themselves”. Clearly this won’t work. Most elected officials dedicate a full time schedule to their jobs, however many earn outside income in a variety of ways. Many earn money from law firm, consulting firms, development firms, or real estate companies that do business with the government. This is not necessarily illegal, but the opaqueness makes it hard to determine what is legit, what is shady, and what is downright illegal. This increases the influence of special interests and opens the door for all sorts of “pay to play” situations. High contributions lead to extra access, which is by no means illegal, but isn’t great for a democracy.
  • So how does all of this dysfunction and the failure of democracy come to life for the average New Yorker? In order to tell the colorful and full story of #democracyfail in New York, you need look no further than MYD’s favorite elected official – State Senator and current Majority Leader of the NYS State Senate, Pedro Espada Jr.
  • So first let’s tackle equality before the law. In order to tell the story of #democracyfail in New York, you need look no further than MYD’s favorite elected official – State Senator and current Majority Leader of the NYS State Senate, Pedro Espada Jr.
  • So first let’s tackle equality before the law. In order to tell the story of #democracyfail in New York, you need look no further than MYD’s favorite elected official – Pedro Espada Jr.
  • When Pedro asked for his $2M dollars, the Democrats had just recently taken back the majority in the State Senate, for the first time in FIFTY YEARS. During the past half-century, the Assembly had been under Democratic control, and the Republicans had retained control of the Senate. This meant, among other things, that each house passed a phenomenal number of bills, but less than 5% of them were signed into law. It also meant that every single Senator in the Democratic majority conference effectively had a veto and could hold the entire legislative process hostage.
  • So if you were Pedro, what would you do? You could a) b) c) d)… How about c and d? (check boxes appear)
  • So first let’s tackle equality before the law. In order to tell the story of #democracyfail in New York, you need look no further than MYD’s favorite elected official – Pedro Espada Jr.
  • So how did the story end?
  • Btw, MYD’s favorite moment in the coup happened when…. (show picture after paragraph), then: And if you want to commemorate this amazing story, you can buy your Limited Edition “Don’t Vote for Pedro” shirt from us today or on our website.
  • We have an opportunity this year to throw out a bunch of the people who don’t deserve to represent the people of NY in Albany. It’s going to be a lot of hard work and thinking and strategy, and we can’t do this on our own. We need to make sure the voices of the people of New York are heard, and that we don’t just let this election go by without sending a message to our elected officials that we will hold them to account, and that we’re paying attention. So here’s the plan….
  • Explain the platform/plank system and how the timing works over the course of the year. What issues we’re likely to try and get electeds to endorse our platform around…. Give suggested areas for plank-building and examples for ethics e.g., term limits for speaker/leader, etc.
  • MYD | Take Back New York

    1. 1. Restoring Democracy to New York A Call to Action By MYD 1 
    2. 2. WHAT IS MYD? •  Local chapter of the Young Democrats of America
 •  We had approximately 140 dues-paying members in 2009
 •  Our mission is to welcome, inspire, educate, and activate the youth of New York City into the political scene 2
    3. 3. WE ALL KNOW NEW YORK IS !@#$ED UP Results from MYDʼs 2010 Membership Survey* Top issues MYD should focus on this year 1.  Corruption, abuse of power and ethics in Albany and NYC 2.  Healthcare 3.  Economic growth 4.  Marriage equality, LGBT equality 5.  Housing, poverty, social equity * 30% of MYD members participated in the survey 3
    4. 4. THE BIG PICTURE: WTF IS WRONG? As a New Yorker, theoretically itʼs your civic duty to cast an informed vote for no less than 15 elected officials. Who “represents” me? FEDERAL STATE CITY •  President •  Governor •  Mayor •  US Senators •  State Senator •  City Councilperson •  US Congressperson •  Assemblyperson •  City Comptroller •  State Comptroller •  Public Advocate •  Attorney General •  District Attorney •  Borough President 4
    5. 5. WHEN IT COMES TO VOTING, LIFE MIGHT BE BETTER AS A CANADIAN If you lived in Toronto, youʼd cast your vote only thrice: Who “represents” me, eh? FEDERAL PROVINCE CITY •  Parliament member •  Parliament member •  City Councilperson 5
    6. 6. TOO MANY ELECTEDS, TOO LITTLE TIME = CORRUPTION Matt Yglesias @ Think Progress: New Yorkers donʼt have five times as much time in their day to monitor the performance of elected officials. Instead, New Yorkʼs elected officials simply arenʼt monitored as closely. That creates more scope for corruption. 6
    7. 7. SO… WHERE DO WE START? MYD will focus on state-level legislative races this year: Who “represents” me? FEDERAL STATE CITY •  President •  Governor •  Mayor •  US Senators •  State Senator •  City Councilperson •  US Congressperson •  Assemblyperson •  City Comptroller •  State Comptroller •  Public Advocate •  Attorney General •  District Attorney •  Borough President But why should young people in NYC care about what goes on in the state legislature in Albany? 7
    8. 8. REASON #1:
 ALBANY (UNFORTUNATELY) MATTERS Many of the issues young people in New York City care about canʼt change without someone signing something in Albany. ISSUE WHY ALBANY MATTERS Marriage Equality State controls marriage licenses The MTA State controls funding Taxes State must pass law Public Schools State must pass law Healthcare State issues a lot of regulations 8
    9. 9. REASON #2: ALBANY TAKES OUR MONEY Example of NYC residents getting screwed, from this yearʼs proposed Executive Budget % of state revenues from NYC: 50% % cut in revenue-sharing % cut in revenue-sharing for NYC over last year: for other NY localities: 100% 1-5% Source: Mayorʼs Testimony to the State Senate Finance and Assembly Ways & Means 9 Committees:
    10. 10. REASON #3: REFORMING THE LEGISLATURE IS VITAL TO RESTORING DEMOCRACY TO NY Wikipedia definition for ʻdemocracyʼ: Even though there is no specific, universally accepted definition of ʻdemocracyʼ, there are two principles that any definition includes: equality and freedom. 
 These two principles are reflected by: 
 1.  All citizens having equal access to power 2.  All citizens being equal before the law 10
    11. 11. THE NY STATE LEGISLATURE IS NOT A DEMOCRATIC INSTITUTION It fails on both democratic principles: 1.  Not all citizens have equal access to power. 2.  Not all citizens are equal before the law. = #democracyfail 
    12. 12. #democracyfail 
 PART 1: ACCESS TO POWER In 1994 and again in 1996, the Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU Law School found New Yorkʼs legislature the most dysfunctional of all 50 states. Why? “New York Stateʼs legislative process is broken” and “deprives citizens of full representation in Albany” 12
    13. 13. “THREE MEN IN A ROOM” Only three men matter in New York State when it comes to passing legislation that will affect 20 million New Yorkers: 1. The Speaker of the Assembly 2. The President of the Senate W00T 3. The Governor Well, !@#$ 13
    14. 14. WHY RULES MATTER 1.  Leaders control the chamber floor. Only bills that will pass are brought to the floor. 2.  All discussion on bills is done behind closed doors. 3.  Committees and sub-committees are inactive, rarely holding hearings or discussions. 4.  Conference committees between the two houses, as in the US Congress, do not exist. 14
    15. 15. AGAINST SUCH POWER, THERE CAN BE NO RESISTANCE Why donʼt individual members stand up and change the rules? One word: MONEY. Which means: 1.  Member items 2.  Money for offices and staff 3.  Committee assignments 4.  Housekeeping funds 15
    16. 16. #democracyfail 
 THE STATE LEGISLATURE Legislative Ethics LEC was established by members and is made Committee is a joke up of members. Self-policing doesnʼt work. Undisclosed Legislators are “part-time” and can have “outside income” outside income that does not necessarily have to be made public or reported to LEC “Pay-to-play” and Unlike in New York City, there is no public ludicrously lax funding for State elections. The contribution campaign finance limits for individuals, lobbyists, and organizations laws are also much higher. 17
    18. 18. WTF! - PEDRO ESPADA JR. State Senator Pedro Espada Jr
 Majority Leader of the New York State Senate MYDʼs Favorite Elected Official and Orchestrator of the “June 8 Coup” 18
    19. 19. A LONG HISTORY OF WTF •  Allegedly lives in a $700,000 house outside of his district.
 •  Allegedly uses his personal non-profit, Soundview Health System to direct money to himself and family members. •  Racked up over $60k of fines in various campaign finance shenanigans, and in some campaigns never filed disclosures at all. 
 •  "In past prosecutions of Pedro or his underlings, he has walked and they've taken the fall for him, rewarded with getting back their jobs.“ (Daily News) 19
    20. 20. IT ALL BEGAN WITH TWO MILLION DOLLARS… In 2009, Pedro tried to get $2 million in member items for Bronx groups connected to him and that in some cases looked like they had just been created especially to receive the money. The State Senate leadership thought it looked too fishy even for Albany, and said no. Unfortunately for everyone else in New York State, ʻnoʼ was not an acceptable answer for Pedro… 20
    22. 22. IF YOU WERE PEDRO, WHAT WOULD YOU DO? (a) Run for Governor of Illinois (b) Realize that maybe you shouldnʼt be enriching yourself, family, and/or friends out of taxpayer funds (c) Join the Republicans to get what you want ✓ (d) Blackmail the Democrats to get what you want ✓ 22
 SEN HIRAM MONSERRATE JOINED THE GOP Pedro + Hiram Oh, !@#$ =32! 23 
    24. 24. WHAT PEDRO WANTS, PEDRO GETS The June 8 coup consumed six weeks of the legislative session in which absolutely nothing was accomplished for New Yorkers. A couple weeks later into the coup, the Democratic caucus welcomed Sen Monserrate back into the fold. They even gave him his committee chairmanship, along with the $12K “lulu” back. Yup. The coup came to a close when negotiations with Pedro led to his return to the Democratic caucus. For his efforts, Pedro received the title of Majority Leader and the trappings of the office. He also got his $2 million member item. 24
    25. 25. OUR FAVORITE SENATE COUP MOMENT With the chamber tied 31-31 after Monserrate returned to the Dems, Pedro argued he could cast not just one vote but two – one as the Senate President and another as a regular Senator Get Yours Today! 25
    26. 26. AND ITʼS NOT JUST PEDRO Assemblyman 
 •  10 years in prison for embezzlement, fraud and Brian McLaughlin taking bribes •  Stole from a Little League team in Queens. Assemblywoman 
 •  2-6 years in prison for demanding a developer Diane Gordon build her a house in exchange for govʼt land Senator Joe Bruno •  Faces up to 20 years in prison for conviction on two federal felony corruption charges 26
    27. 27. …YUP, THEREʼS MORE State Senator •  Convicted of Class A misdemeanor for allegedly Hiram Monserrate slashing his girlfriend. •  Expelled from the Senate by his colleagues – the same ones who let him return after the coup. Former State Senator, •  Indicted in 2010 on 13 counts of extortion and Councilman 
 fraud. Larry Seabrook •  Now famous for his $177 bagel + coffee. State Senator 
 •  Indicted for diverting over $400,000 in funds Efrain Gonzalez meant for a community group to his own personal accounts. 27
    28. 28. THE HEART OF THE MATTER There are many progressive, ethical, diligent and hard- working elected officials throughout New York. But a broken, undemocratic legislature and people like Pedro are keeping them from doing their job – and the issues we care about arenʼt being addressed in Albany. We need to elect more people who will fight to restore democracy to New York. 28
    29. 29. GAME PLAN FOR 2010: 
 WHO AGREE WITH US FTW! Now – April April –June June – Nov •  Sign up to be an •  Outreach to •  Phone Bank. Ambassador candidates •  Canvass. •  Join an Issue- •  Candidate •  GOTV. Oriented forums / Committee debates •  All that good stuff. •  Join a Directorʼs team 29
    30. 30. Q&A TIME / FEEDBACK We may not have the answers, but weʼll work with you to figure out them out. And visit us online to read the blog, get more resources, and plug in: 30