The Reformer - November 2014
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In This Issue

November 2014



With Thanksgiving tomorrow, the holiday season begins in full swing.  As Citizens Union sprints to year’s end, we are thankful for the support of our members and donors who have made 2014 a successful year for making democracy work for all New Yorkers.  We are thrilled for Prop 1’s passage and the promise of a new redistricting process in place that bans partisan gerrymandering when the next round of map making takes place after the 2020 census.  Though you have heard plenty from Citizens Union this fall, we are happy to send you our current Reformer with news of our other recent activities.

May you and those who you hold dear have an enjoyable Thanksgiving as we all pause to bear thanks for our good fortunes in life. 

Dick Dadey,
Executive Director


Port Authority Reform on the Horizon

With the support of Citizens Union’s advocacy, the New York State Legislature passed two important pieces of legislation to reform the authority in June, and earlier this month, identical legislation was passed in New Jersey’s state legislature (reforming the authority requires changes to the law in both states).  CU, with good government and transportation colleagues, issued a statement urging Governors Cuomo and Christie to sign both bills into law.  The bills are expected to be sent to Governor Cuomo imminently for a decision.

Reforming the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has been on our priority list this year following the scandal of the closing of the George Washington Bridge in 2013.  CU’s State Affairs Committee worked in early 2014 to develop a position statement on reforming the authority to restore public confidence, including reforms to improve the management of the authority, increase transparency, and ensure strong ethics standards.  The bills intend to align the Port Authority governance and conflicts of interest policies to those reforms enacted several years ago for the state’s own public authorities.    

The Port Authority was created in the spirit of bi-state cooperation, and owns and manages some of the most significant infrastructure assets in our region — bridges, bus facilities, tunnels, the PATH, ports, airports, and the World Trade Center site.  Once known for its professional handling in building important infrastructure projects, it it has been mired recently due to internal divisions and patronage.

Prop 1 Victory

New Yorkers achieved a huge reform victory on Election Day by passing a constitutional amendment that outlaws partisan gerrymandering and limits the power of the legislature to draw its own district lines.  57% of New Yorkers statewide approved the measure, and in New York City approval was 63%. 

Citizens Union’s effort to reform New York’s broken redistricting process began back in the spring of 2004 and culminated this fall with a high-octane campaign that included tremendous effort by Citizen Union staff, interns, the advice of communication strategists, a website devoted to Proposal 1, the use of social media and palm cards, and, in the closing days of the campaign, a powerful yet economical digital media ad campaign.

We were fortunate to have the support our colleagues, the League of Women Voters/NYS, and aided by a corps of Citizen Union volunteers, our campaign Ambassadors, who gave tirelessly to the effort, standing with us at subway stops and polling places to convince New Yorkers with palm cards and conversation.        


Committed Local Candidates Committee Does It Again - Produces Awesome Voter Guides

In the 2014 election season, the Citizens Union Local Candidates Committee (LCC) evaluated 49 legislative candidates in 23 races. Our 59 volunteer LCC members, 7 interns, and 4 staff members formed nonpartisan teams to conduct interviews and evaluations, contributing their time, energy, expertise, and above all, commitment. In the 15 primary races which the LCC evaluated, 8 of Citizens Union’s preferred candidates went on to win their respective primary and general elections. In the general election, Citizens Union evaluated an additional 9 legislative races and endorsed 8 candidates, all of whom emerged victorious.

In total, 74 qualified legislative candidates filled out questionnaires for their races in the primary and general elections combined. Upon analysis of their responses, we found that 20 candidates (27%) supported CU’s positions on all 37 questions. Additionally, more than 90% of responding candidates agreed with 18 out of 37 of our reforms.

CU positions with the most support from candidates include:

  • ensuring adequate disclosure and itemization of legislative discretionary funds (100% agreed);
  • requiring the governor’s budget submission to present the full scope of the state’s financial obligations including public authorities (97.3%);
  • improving disclosure of campaigns’ independent expenditures (97.3%);
  • creating stricter requirements on the use of campaign funds for non-campaign related activity, such as personal use (95.9%);
  • clarifying the definition of coordination between candidates and political committees to ensure candidate contribution limits are not exceeded, and expenditures and contributions are properly reported (95.9%).

Citizens Union also stepped up its promotion of its supported candidates by distributing publicly across the city thousands of its voter guides and ran independent ads on behalf of certain candidates.  Such an effort is part of our strategic plan initiatives to better inform New Yorkers about CU’s candidate choices and required CU to file as a political committee in order to disclose such activities. 

See our Primary Election and General Election Voter Guides for more information about the candidates and their positions on CU’s state policy agenda.

Citizens Union Sponsors Public Forums on Non-Citizen Voting

Citizens Union recently sponsored two forums on non-citizen voting in partnership with the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC). The forums served as platform for community conversation and input from local stakeholders on the policy implications of non-citizen voting, a current issue before the NYC Council that would allow lawfully present residents (visa-holders) to vote in New York City municipal elections. Neither organization has taken a position on this issue, though the issue is currently being evaluated by Citizens Union’s Municipal Affairs Committee.

The forums were hosted by Hostos Community College in the Bronx with the help of CU Board Member Professor Hector Soto, and by the community based organization El Puente in Williamsburg Brooklyn with the assistance of the organization’s founder (and also CU Board Member) Luis Garden Acosta, and member Theresa Doherty.

Five expert panelists framed the conversation, led by moderators Dick Dadey, CU Executive Director, and Steve Choi, NYIC Executive Director, around a wide range of topical areas including the political and social history of non-citizen voting, the legal framework within New York State and New York City, the immigration system, and how this policy could be implemented by the City Board of Elections. In addition to the panelist’s presentations, each forum featured valuable dialogue sparked by the audience questions and participation.

Want to know more about the conversation? Follow the live dialogue that took place at the forums on Twitter. You can also check out more event pictures on the Citizens Union Facebook page.


Awards Dinner Success

The Citizens Union annual awards dinner was held on October 14 at the Pierre, and it was a great chance for members and supporters to honor the four recipients of our awards this year: Michael Cardozo, Michele Hirshman, Dr. Herbert Pardes, and Hon. William Thompson, Jr. (pictured below along with Citizens Union Foundation Board President Robert Abrams, Citizens Union Board Chair Peter Sherwin, and the organization’s Executive Director, Dick Dadey).  The evening included an introduction by Comptroller Scott Stringer, remarks by CU board chair Peter Sherwin, and CU’s executive director, Dick Dadey.

Bottom Right: Peter Sherwin, Citizens Union and Citizens Union Foundation Board Chair
Bottom Left: Judi Rappaport Blitzer, Citizens Union Foundation Board Vice Chair


Publication Highlights

Gotham Gazette-WNYC Election Guide
After agreeing to a first-of-its kind partnership in the spring, Gotham Gazette collaborated with WNYC radio’s Data News Team to create an interactive election guide, which was utilized by many thousands of New Yorkers; in total there were over 135,000 visits leading up to the primary and 80,000-plus in just the first four days of November (11/4 was Election Day). The guide allowed users to type in their address to see which races and candidates would be on their ballot or to explore any and all races if they so choose.
The Cuomo Record
Not only did Gotham Gazette help to inform many New York voters through the election guide project, but the publication made a strong impact on informing the electorate through its unique series “The Cuomo Record.” The series looked at Governor Andrew Cuomo’s first term record in seven categories: immigration/civil rights; government reform; transparency; fiscal management; the economy; the environment; and education. Gotham Gazette was the only publication to run such a series, which was thorough, informative, and popular.
Productivity and Traffic
There has been a major upswing in both Gotham Gazette productivity and traffic this fall, even after each had increased significantly in the spring and the summer. For example, Gotham Gazette published about 25 feature articles each month from April through August. In September, the number jumped to 40. In October, 54 feature articles were published.
Along with boosts from referral traffic via the GG-WNYC election guide and from visitors seeking out election information in general, the increased productivity led to major increases in traffic to Gotham Gazette.
It has been an extremely successful fall for Gotham Gazette. Leading up to September’s primary elections and through September, October, and November Gotham Gazette’s productivity, quality, visibility, impact, and traffic have all grown significantly.

Please continue to read and support Gotham Gazette, and share the publication with your friends!


City Announces Payphone Wi-Fi Deal, by Kristen Meriwether, Nov 17, 2014

Balancing More Than Just the Books: Scott Stringer's First Year as Comptroller, by Ben Max, Nov 17, 2014

Is New York Campaign Finance Reform Dead?, by David Howard King, Nov 14, 2014

Forty Years of Freefall in New York Voter Turnout, by Nicholas Jahr, Nov 13, 2014

Military Veterans Seek City Business, Await Action on Contract Goals, by Kristen Meriwether, Nov 10, 2014

Governor Fusion: Cuomo and His Many Ballot Lines, by David Howard King, Nov 06, 2014

8 Election Day Questions for New York, by David King and Ben Max, Nov 04, 2014

The Cuomo Record, by David King, Sarah Crean, and Ben Max, Oct 13, 2014



Please help Citizens Union fulfill its civic mission by making a generous contribution today. As a financial supporter, you are contributing to the creation of a democracy that works for all New Yorkers and pushing the reform agenda forward.  Donate to Citizens Union and be part of the change you seek.
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