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Pol Position: New York City Budget Breakdown

Late on Monday night, the City Council voted 44-6 for this year’s $101 billion budget.
Several progressive members of the caucus—-including Chi Osé, Tiffany Cabán, Sandy Nurse, Charles Barron and more—-voted against the legislation for either giving too much money to the NYPD or not spending enough on issues such as housing or sanitation.

Education
One of the biggest snafus in this years budget process was the contention between the city council and the mayor’s proposed $215 million cut in education spending. The $215 million in cuts revert to pre-pandemic policies of reallocating resources based off on enrollment. Recent figures show that up to 120,000 students have left the public school system over the last five years.
The cuts come off the heels of new class size legislation from Albany. Critics of the cuts say the decreased funding will make the class size mandate harder to actualize.
Even more progressive members who voted for the budget expressed dismay with the budget cuts.
“But this budget also fell short in serious ways, and we will need to spend the next few months fighting like hell to address its deficiencies on housing and especially education,” Progressive Caucus Co-Chair Lincoln Restler, said in a statement.

Green spaces
The budget prioritizes green and clean spaces in the city, despite Parks not attaining one percent of the budget as Mayor Adams stumped on during the campaign trail.
A total of $44.1 million is in the pipeline for Parks Department maintenance and summer workforce, as well as $3.5 million in funding for organic drop-off sites, $2.6 million for “green thumb” gardens, $2.5 million for forest management, and $2 million for tree stump removal.
An investment in cleaner streets through the restoration of $18.5 million in sanitation cuts will also mean more frequent trash pick-up and cleanings.
“With huge funding increases to the Department of Sanitation and Parks Department, our neighborhoods will be able to breathe a little easier,” Councilwoman Marjorie Velázquez said in a statement.

Police
This year’s budget brings a $5.5 million operating budget for the NYPD, with the Council touting “fiscal responsibility” by curbing the growth of wasteful spending on the criminal justice system.
The budget brings some transparency to the fiscal operations of the NYPD, by establishing 18 new units of appropriation, or the purpose for what funds are doled out to which agency, for the first time in Council history.
The Council also got rid of a proposal that would have increased the headcount at the Department of Correction by 578 positions. Nevertheless, some members of the Council were still upset with “bloated levels” of funding for policing.
“Without moving away from violent, oppressive systems, we are undermining the very investments I am so glad we managed to include in this budget, and ensuring that their potential positive impacts are nowhere near as substantial as they could and should be,” said Councilmember Tiffany Cabán.

Reserves
This year’s budget set a record $8.3 billion in reserve funds—-an important step as financial analysts have warned of a looming recession. Specifically, Mayor Adams said at Friday’s budget announcement that he was adding $750 million to the Rainy Day Fund, $750 million to retired health benefits trust, and $500 million to the general reserve. Adams also increased the labor reserves by $1.25 million, amid upcoming union negotiations and rising inflation.
Comptroller Brad Lander said, in a statement, that while the reserves were a substantial amount they still fell short of his office’s recommended $1.8 billion.
“Going forward, the City should adopt a set formula to guarantee annual deposits and establish rules for withdrawals to guard against devastating cuts in a potential recession, which could be on the horizon sooner than we would hope,” Lander said in a statement.

Pol Position: The ‘formula’ for disaster

The nationwide shortage of baby formula is leaving parents with newborn children worried over how they plan to feed their infants.

Consumer shortages are the direct result of a massive recall of products produced by one of the nation’s largest manufacturers of powdered formula, Abbott Nutrition, which had been found to cause bacterial infections in four infants who needed to be hospitalized as a result.

Since then, major retail chains like CVS, Walgreens, and Target have restricted the number of formula products a customer can purchase.

The Food and Drug Administration continues to work closely with Abbott and other manufacturers to try and bring safe products to the market and increase the availability of infant and specialty formula products, while at the same time, monitoring the recalled products including Similac, Alimentum, and EleCare.

New York State Gov. Kathy Hochul reassured parents with infants that she is working in close cooperation with the FDA to monitor this crisis and to provide support to families in need of formula.

“My administration is committed to ensuring every newborn and child has access to the nutritional support they need to stay healthy,” Hochul said. “I urge every parent and guardian to take advantage of these resources and keep up to date with important information to take care of their families.”

In a further effort to assist parents struggling to cover expenses incurred during the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Hochul has also announced plans to provide $28 million in federal funding to help more than 112,000 struggling New Yorkers on public assistance with a child 17 years or younger to help pay for housing expenses bills and other critical needs, including formula.

Since baby formula products are in such short supply, state officials are urging parents not to hoard formula products, as it could potentially further impact the supply chain and other families from receiving the resources they need.

Parents experiencing frustration with the shortage should also be aware of potential scammers, who are using this crisis as a means to make a buck.

According to the New York State Division of Consumer Protection, these scams are typically rooted in online sales and private sellers who are asking for double the market price, knowing that big retailers are in short supply.

Some of the big retailers have empty shelves and little information about when they may receive their next shipment.

“Parents, feeling the pressures of the shortage, may find themselves scrambling to find alternative solutions but in the end could end up being scammed by unscrupulous bad actors online,” Secretary of State Robert J. Rodriguez said in a statement on the crisis. “At a time when there is a national shortage of baby formula, it is imperative that parents and guardians be aware of scams and know how to spot illegitimate online sales.”

The most important thing for parents to remember is to safety check any formula-based product to make sure it is not subject to a recall. This requires examining the lot code, a multidigit number on the bottom of any container of Similac, Alimentum, and EleCare powdered products.

Not only has the shortage opened the door for third-party retailers to take advantage of the crisis, but it has forced some families to ration food supplies and even made some travel for hours in order to obtain formula.

“No family in America should ever be concerned they cannot feed their children,” U.S. Senator Kristen Gillibrand said. “Corporate greed and malfeasance have put us in this dire situation and now we must act with urgency.”

In a letter addressed to President Biden, Gillibrand calls on the executive to invoke the Defense Protection Act in order to help address the ongoing crisis.

If put into effect, the Defense Production Act would give the President authority to assist in domestic industry and increase the production of baby formula by requiring people, businesses, and corporations to prioritize and accept contracts for baby formula production.

It would also allow for the expansion of production capacity and supply by incentivizing the domestic industrial base, while entering into voluntary agreements with private businesses to coordinate the production of excess formula.

“These authorities have been employed numerous times since the 1950s to supplement national stockpiles,” Gillibrand states in her letter. “Given that reports suggest that nearly 40 percent of formula nationwide is now out of stock, the need to intensify the production of formula to prevent a future child nutrition crisis is clear.”

Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney and Congresswoman Raja Krishnamoorthi also recently sent a joint letter to the four major manufacturers of baby formula products, including Abbott Nutrition, Mead Johnson Nutrition, Nestle USA, and Perrigo Company—who together control nearly 90 percent of the U.S. market of formula—requesting information on what these companies are doing to address the nationwide shortage.

“The national formula shortage poses a threat to the health and economic security of infants and families in communities through the country—particularly those with less income who have historically experienced health inequities, including food insecurity,” the letter states. “It is critical that your company take all possible steps to increase the supply of formula and prevent price gouging.”

Maloney and Krishnamoorthi are requesting a briefing and response from all four of the manufacturers by May 26.

Suozzi to enter governor’s race

Tom Suozzi isn’t bolting Congress to join the incoming Eric Adams administration as a deputy mayor, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have his sights set on changing jobs.
Adams extended the invitation to Suozzi the week before Thanksgiving, and Suozzi said he would take the holiday week to think about it. But he also added the caveat that he was also interested in joining an increasingly crowded Democratic Primary for governor.
Former governor Andrew Cuomo’s term was up at the end of next year, which means Governor Kathy Hochul will already have to defend the seat she was given when Cuomo left office in disgrace.
Other Democrats who have already announced their intent to run include Attorney Letitia James and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.
Suozzi’s announcement could be a problem for Hochul. Both Williams and James will run progressive campaigns, while Hochul would likely position herself as a more centrist Democrat to appeal to suburban and upstate voters.
The problem is that’s exactly the same space that Suozzi plans to occupy.
When Suozzi announced his decision on Monday, he said he would be running as a “common-sense Democrat” focused on working-class issues, such as lower income and property taxes and putting more cops on the streets.
He also said he was opposed to key issues that appeal to left-leaning Democrats. He is against a carbon tax in New York, saying that should be left to the federal government, as well as a bill that would make it harder for landlords to evict tenants without a court order.
Suozzi has name recognition on Long Island, as in addition to representing Nassau and Queens counties in Congress, Suozzi served as Nassau County executive before he was sent to Washington by voters in 2017.
Republicans made several key gains in local elections last year, which shows voters are pushing back against progressive politics and leaning more conservative. Suozzi’s political record, as well as his stance on key issues like taxes and crime, would appeal to just those type of voters.
Unfortunately for Hochul, she was counting on those voters, as well.
And it won’t hurt Suozzi that he is already thought of highly by Adams, which will help with voters in New York City. An endorsement from Adams – still a long ways off! – would be a big coup for Suozzi and can only help him with voters who might have been leaning toward James or Williams.
It’s been a long time since New York City has had a governor and mayor who actually like each other, let alone simply show even a modicum of professionalism and respect.
Reports indicated that in recent weeks party strategists were urging Suozzi to steer clear of the governor’s race and instead focus on winning back his congressional seat, which is now seen as being flippable by Republicans if the incumbent were to leave it vacant.
House Democrats are already holding onto a tenuous majority, and replacing Suozzi with a member of the GOP will only exacerbate that issue.
When asked about just that at his announcement, Suozzi had this to say:
“Congress is great, and I’m hoping we’re gonna win the majority again, and we may not, we may, it doesn’t matter. I’m running for governor, because I believe that this is the job that I am made for. Everything I’ve done has prepared me for this particular job at this particular time.”
At least one Republican candidate has already announced they would challenge Suozzi in 2022. Kevin Surdi, an ER nurse, wasted no time in characterizing Suozzi’s decision as that of an incumbent who knows they don’t stand a chance at winning reelection.
“After the Republican tidal wave in Queens, Nassau and Suffolk counties, career politician Tom Suozzi sees the writing on the wall and is once again putting his ambition above his constituents,” the Surdi campaign said in statement. “CD-3 is red and he knows it.”
Next year is shaping up to be a busy one for Suozzi.

When an endorsement isn’t really one

A few weeks back, we wrote about how ranked-choice voting has made campaign-season endorsements a little more complicated. Or maybe it makes them less complicated, depending on which side of the endorsement you fall on.
For the people or groups making the endorsement, they no longer necessarily have to make a tough decision between two candidates they prefer.
With ranked-choice voting, they can pick one candidate as their first choice, but say that if they don’t win, they would be perfectly happy with candidate two, who they would put as their second choice on the ballot.
It’s an easy way out of a making a hard choice.
If you happen to be the first choice, that’s as good as an old-fashioned endorsement regardless of the type of election.
However, if you are the second choice, which is happening more and more often, it’s a little trickier to promote that you were endorsed but also reveal that you weren’t exactly the first choice, that there is another candidate that is preferable to you.
But what do you do if you are one of three candidates endorsed, and the person making the endorsement doesn’t even reveal the order of their choice? Were you even really endorsed at all?
That’s what happened when State Senator John Liu announced that he was endorsing John Choe, Ellen Young and Sandra Ung to replace Peter Koo in the City Council, but he never said who was his first, second and third choice.
“Voters can vote for up to five candidates by ranking their choices one through five, and I urge my fellow District 20 voters to rank these three candidates as their top three choices,” Liu said in a statement.
When he shared his comments about each candidate in a press release announcing the endorsements, he even made sure to state that he was doing so in alphabetical order so as not to imply a preference.
Ranked-choice voting makes it possible for Liu to say that he thinks they are all fine candidates for the post, which is a perfectly fair sentiment to have. However, if voters are only allowed to vote for one candidate as in past elections, endorsing all three wouldn’t make any sense.
The press release announcing the endorsement(s) did say that Liu would reveal his first, second and third choices at a later date.
Again, this makes things tricky for the candidates, who would love to announce they have the support of somebody as well known in the district as Liu, but in reality were only one of three candidates he actually supports.
So they just ignored that little fact.
Both the Choe and Young campaigns sent out press releases along with photos of them alone with Liu announcing the endorsement without mentioning the other two candidates.
Ung went a different route and doesn’t even mention it a list of other endorsements on her website. Maybe she waiting to see if she is Liu’s first choice.
We’re not sure how the Board of Elections is going to handle the logistics of ranked-choice voting to ensure timely election results, but we love the new layers of strategy it is bringing to this year’s primary.

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