Who's the fairest city of them all? Mayor Bill de Blasio wants it to be New York, announcing initiatives he hopes will give more New Yorkers access to public health services, paid time off, and retirement savings. Here's what else you may have missed in New York politics this week:
CITY EXPANDS OUTREACH EFFORTS TO UNINSURED NEW YORKERS
(Mayor de Blasio on Tuesday announced an expansion and rebranding of public health services. Grace Rauh/NY1).
Injecting New York City into the national debate over health care, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday that all New Yorkers — including the hundreds of thousands of uninsured and undocumented immigrants — will be guaranteed access to health care and primary care doctors. It's an effort to expand and rebrand the public health care services that the city already provides. The plan, called NYC Care, is an expansion of NYC Health + Hospitals' health insurance option called MetroPlus, insurance coverage that can be used only at city-run hospitals.
Why this matters:
In some respects, the new NYC Care program is an attempt by the city to do a better job of connecting New Yorkers with public health services that already exist. But the plan can grant comprehensive and affordable health care to New Yorkers who have, to date, been unable to get health insurance because of their immigration status or an inability to afford insurance.
Expanded public health care services could be a boon for undocumented immigrants, who at times do not go to the hospital unless they have a health emergency — a decision that can prove expensive to them. Instead, the plan would, in theory, provide more undocumented immigrants preventive care to catch health problems earlier.
QUEENS DA RICHARD BROWN WILL NOT SEEK RE-ELECTION
(In this June 11, 2015 file photo, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown speaks to reporters during a news conference in New York. Brown said on Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019, that he won't seek re-election in November. Mary Altaffer/AP).
A longtime New York City prosecutor and former judge who presided over the arraignment of "Son of Sam" killer David Berkowitz will retire at the end of the year, he told NY1 on Wednesday.
Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, who was appointed in 1991, said he plans on completing his term but would not seek re-election. The 86-year-old has been battling Parkinson's disease for the past few years and said he came to the decision "after careful thought and consideration."
Why this matters:
Brown's decision isn't likely to trigger a flood of new candidates in the race, because it came as little surprise. But it does officially clear the way for what will be one of New York City's most closely-watched races in 2019. Already, three candidates have jumped into the race, including a borough councilman and the borough president. For the first time in decades, then, there is legitimate competition for the position. As a result, candidates are framing the election as an opportunity to reform criminal justice in the borough. That's because the Queens district attorney has the purview on what cases are prosecuted in the borough. So whomever it elected to the position will have a direct impact on many New Yorkers.
DE BLASIO AIMS TO MAKE NEW YORK THE FIRST U.S. CITY TO MANDATE PAID TIME OFF
(The mayor is pushing to make sure hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who work without paid time off get 10 paid days off each year that could be used for any purpose).
Mayor Bill de Blasio vowed Wednesday to back legislation that would make New York City the first in the country to require employers to offer paid vacation days.
The legislation would require employers with five or more employees to offer 10 paid days off each year that could be used for any purpose. The number of required days off would be pro-rated for part-time workers. The mandate would have to be passed by the City Council, a process that could take several months.
What kind of impact could this have?
The mayor said the legislation would help more than 500,000 full-time and part-time workers in the city who currently have no paid vacation days or personal days. While it could be a big relief for some employees who don't get the option of getting paid when they need to decompress, some groups say the mandate would hurt small businesses and the city's economy.
"New York is already the highest cost city in the country, where entrepreneurs are struggling to survive," Kathryn Wylde of the Partnership for NYC said in a statement. "This proposal sends a discouraging message to the entrepreneurs who are already contributing so much to our city's tax rolls and employment opportunities and the City Council should reject it."
ALBANY'S '3 MEN IN A ROOM' WELCOMES FIRST WOMAN LEGISLATIVE LEADER
(Democrat Andrea Stewart-Cousins sworn in as Senate majority leader on Wednesday. For the first time, a woman is now one of the three most powerful people in New York state government. Zack Fink/NY1).
Before a packed Senate chamber, Andrea Stewart-Cousins officially became New York state's new Senate majority leader on Wednesday, the first woman to lead a major conference in Albany.
What Stewart-Cousins could do with her power:
The ascendancy of Stewart-Cousins shatters the traditional deal-making formula in Albany, which consisted of "three men in a room" throughout state history. Now, Stewart-Cousins will be one of those deal-makers and can craft important legislation.
Furthermore, Stewart-Cousins's rise comes with Democrats taking control of both houses of the state legislature, which means they can drive the pace in Albany instead of Republicans or Gov. Andrew Cuomo. On Friday, State Sen. Michael Gianaris, Cousins's deputy leader, said the Senate will pass bills Monday that were all agreed to with the Assembly. In previous years under Cuomo, significant bills were rolled into state budgets. But with large majorities in both houses of the legislature, Democratic lawmakers can now call the shots.
CITY COUNCIL PASSES REFORM BILLS TO OVERHAUL SCHOOL BUS SYSTEM
(The City Council has passed reform bills to overhaul the long-troubled school bus system. The mayor is likely to sign them into law).
The City Council on Wednesday unanimously passed seven reform bills to overhaul the long-troubled school bus system.
Starting next fall, if the bills pass:
- All school buses would be equipped with GPS tracking devices, allowing parents and guardians to monitor the location of their children.
- The city would be forced to publicly report delays, allegations of driver misconduct, the exact length of each route, and details about parent complaints.
- Buses would finally receive two-way radios, so when things do go wrong, drivers can instantly seek help.
What led to this?
In part, four months of horror stories about yellow school bus services.
In September, bus problems began before the first school bells rang, when many kids were not picked up for the first day of classes. Other children rode for hours, arriving late to school. By the end of the month, the city had received 130,000 complaints about the school buses, significantly up from previous years, when bus problems had also plagued the start of school.
During the November snowstorm that brought much of the city to a standstill, 700 buses got stuck, leaving thousands of students in cold vehicles with no procedures in place for food, bathroom access, or communication with parents. The last child was finally brought home at 4:30 in the morning.
DE BLASIO LOOKS TO THE LEFT IN HIS STATE OF THE CITY
(Mayor Bill de Blasio drew on parts of his old playbook in his sixth State of the City speech on Thursday).
In his sixth State of the City speech on Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio returned to his ideological roots. He introduced a slew of initiatives, from an expansion of the city's NYC Ferry service to Staten Island to a new office he wants to seize properties from "bad landlords."
What does all of that mean?
Some of the impact: The expansion of the ferry service will give Staten Islanders a new option to get to Midtown from St. George; and a push to create a city-managed retirement fund, under the mayor's plan, would allow employees without an employer-sponsored retirement plan to invest a portion of their paycheck into a city-managed fund and carry it from job to job.
But there could still be political tensions over the policy. The City Council needs to approve some of the initiatives, and some members have already put up some question marks on at least one item on the mayor's wish list. City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and the council's housing chair released statements saying they had concerns with the plan for the Office to Protect Tenants to seize as many as 40 properties a year from landlords who harass tenants.
(There is growing evidence Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is preparing a presidential campaign).
New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has spent the last few years swatting away any suggestion she had her eye on the White House.
Now, a run for president appears all but certain. This week, in fact, she reportedly signed a lease for a 5,000-square-foot space in downtown Troy, near her home in the town of Brunswick.
Why this matters:
While she hasn't announced yet, the space is Troy could be home for Gillibrand's presidential campaign, and it is in-line with her recent moves a presidential candidate often makes. Gillibrand said in December that she was considering running for president, and she has been hiring staff members, including a potential campaign director and communications director. A trip to Iowa is also in the works, another telltale sign; just last weekend, newly-announced candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren made the rounds in the state, which is home to the first-in-the-nation primary contest.
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