Category Archives: new york elections

Bureaucracy: 2017 Census of Governments Employment & Payroll Data

This post will complete my series on different government functions based on employment and payroll data from the Census of Governments, for March 2017 and previous years. It includes data for the kind of general government and legal workers one might generally expect to find hanging around in city and town halls, and county seats and courthouses, reviewing applications, keeping records, handling cases and doing inspections, rather than providing services.  At the local government level the functions included are, as delineated by the U.S. Census Bureau, Health, Financial Administration, Other Local Government Administration, Judicial and Legal, and Other and Unallocable. At the state level there are two additional functions:  Social Insurance Administration, basically state Departments of Labor, and “Other Education,” which includes oversight agencies such as the New York State Department of Education and Board of Regents.

For decades I’ve been making the case that for public employment and expenditures alike there is not much to see here. New York State is about average when you add everything up, and no part of the state is really out of line. Today, however, things have changed enough in one part of the state that this time around I don’t feel that to be true anymore.

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Term Limits: Impact On The Operation of New York’s Governing Bodies

During my Don Quixote protest campaign against the state legislature back in 2004, the only member of the media who paid attention to what I was trying to say was Erik Engquist, then of the Courier Life papers, now with Crain’s New York Business.   But he didn’t quite get it right. In one column, he said I was someone who cared deeply about the process of government. I e-mailed him and said that to be honest, like most people I never really cared about or paid attention to the process, I only cared about the results. He wrote back and said while that may be so, unless New York gets a better process, it isn’t going to get any better results.

This is the third and last post in a series on New York City’s double-blind experiment with democracy – a City Council that has term limits, and a state legislature that does not. In the first, I noted that thanks to term limits and public campaign financing there are actual elections for the City Council every eight years, with the would-be members forced to pay attention to the general public, whereas in the state legislature competitive contest elections almost never happen.

https://larrylittlefield.wordpress.com/2017/09/10/term-limits-new-york-citys-double-blind-test-of-democracy/

In the second I examined the personal and professional background of the City Council and state legislature members, and found less difference than I would have supposed, due in part to a surprisingly large amount of recent turnover in the State Assembly, and due in part to the fact that ordinary citizens cannot, or do not, run for office.

https://larrylittlefield.wordpress.com/2017/09/24/term-limits-impact-on-the-characteristics-of-nyc-representatives/

This is post is not about who the members are or how they get there, but what they do when they arrive. With regard to corruption, transparency, and the value they place on the common future, the one interest all of us (other than the most selfish seniors) share.

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Term Limits: Impact on the Characteristics of NYC Representatives

As noted in the prior post in this series, New York City is a double-blind test of the effect on term limits on democracy. Since 1993 the city has represented by term-limited members of the New York City Council, and by unlimited members of the New York State Legislature. The dominant political party, other election laws, and the voting population are the same in each case. One result, as identified in the prior post in this series, which should be read first, is more contested elections for City Council relative to the New York State legislature, which seldom has any.

https://larrylittlefield.wordpress.com/2017/09/10/term-limits-new-york-citys-double-blind-test-of-democracy/

In this post I compare selected characteristics of the NYC officeholders in these governing bodies with each other and, in some cases, the population of the city at large. Their race and Hispanic origin. Their sex (male vs. female). Their place of birth. Their age/date of birth/generation. The year when they were first elected to their current position. And their prior job. I don’t usually pay too much attention to New York City’s elected legislative representatives, other than show up every year to vote against the incumbents in my district, so all this information was new to me. Some of it is what I would have expected, but some of it is not.

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DeBlasio’s FY 2018 NYC Budget, Detroit’s Bankruptcy, and NYC’s Recovery from the 1970s

I was upset that a summary table that showed how much NYC spends on the largest government functions, including debt service and pensions, and how much of this is funded by locally-raised money, was removed from NYC’s “Budget Summary” documents.

https://larrylittlefield.wordpress.com/2017/01/25/the-deblasio-budget-hiding-the-facts/

But there is good news. The table, albeit without a column for spending by agency on judgments and claims and without a comparison with prior years, is back in a more detailed document that came out later, the latest “Message of the Mayor,” page 81.

http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/omb/downloads/pdf/mm4-17.pdf

And that allowed me to easily update the tables and charts I produced last year comparing FY2014, Mayor Bloomberg’s last budget year, with FY 2017, as proposed. A spreadsheet with the tables and charts for FY 2007, FY 2014 and FY 2018 as proposed is attached below.

But in the rest of this post, I’d like to review the “Unsaid” about Detroit’s bankruptcy and New York City’s recovery from the 1970s, and their relevance to NYC today.   Because in my view, despite all that was written and said about those two past events, few have identified the most important reasons why they actually happened.

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Medicaid: The Rest of New York State (Re) Declares War on New York City

After the 1994 election, the one that saw the Republicans take Congress after decades of Democratic dominance, the New York Times published a “portrait of the electorate” based on exit polls. It showed that the 1960s generation was the one most likely to vote Republican that year. “Those hypocrites” I thought. They were “liberals” in their youth when they wanted to get out of serving in Vietnam, and now they are “small government” “conservatives” when they are at their earnings peak and they don’t want to pay taxes, but I’ll bet they’ll be “liberals” again when its time to collect on federal old age benefits. But they surprised me by being even worse than I thought. They still want even more tax cuts for themselves, and even more old age benefits for themselves, such as the Medicare prescription drug benefit. They want to borrow to pay for it. And to ensure our foreign creditors that the money will be paid back by someone else, they also want deep cuts in public services that younger generations need now, and drastic reductions old age benefits — not for themselves but for those to follow them – effective in the future.

With their aging, stagnant populations, the Downstate Suburbs and Upstate New York are now disproportionately occupied by, and almost exclusively represented by, members of Generation Greed. And back in the 1990s I had similar thoughts about their possible upcoming hypocrisy with regard to Medicaid funding, and specifically the local taxpayer share of it. But once again I’ve been surprised, because once again my cynicism was insufficient. They are even worse people than I thought. And it’s past time from them to be called to account for it.

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Is There An Election This Year?

In Plato’s Republic, the discussion of morality begins with the tale of Gyges and the Ring. Glaucon, Plato’s elder brother, presents the “common view” of morality that Socrates will oppose. “What people say is that to do wrong is, in itself, a desirable thing; on the other hand it is not at all desirable to suffer wrong, and the harm to the sufferer outweighs the advantage to the doer. Consequently, when men have had a taste of both, those who have not the power to seize the advantage and escape the harm decide they would be better off if they made a compact neither to do wrong or to suffer it.” And that is morality and law: an uneasy compromise between doing evil to others with impunity, and having others do evil to you without recompense.

To prove this Glaucon recounts the tale of Gyges, a humble shepherd who finds a ring that, turned the right way, makes him invisible. Thus able to take what he wanted with impunity, he raped the Queen and murdered the King. If there were two such rings, Glaucon asserted, one given to a just man and another to an unjust man, they would both act the same. “Surely this is proof would be strong proof that men do right only under compulsion; no individual thinks of it as good for him personally, since he does wrong whenever he has the power.” So what would Plato think of my so-called Representatives in the U.S. House of Representatives, the New York State Senate, and the New York State Assembly, all of whom are invisible?

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