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Grassroots Bulletin

August Newsletter


2014 Election Politics: A Snapshot        

 

This is an important election year in New York State as all seats in both Houses of the Legislature are up for grabs. There are three state-wide elections with Governor Andrew Cuomo and State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman both seeking second terms. State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, who has been in office since 2007, is also running for another term.

Governor Cuomo has chosen former upstate Congresswoman Kathy Hochul as his running mate. From 2011-2013, Hochul represented parts of Erie and Niagara counties in Congress. She would be the first female Democratic lieutenant governor in 35 years. Hochul would replace outgoing Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy who is leaving office to pursue a career in the private sector.   

With polls currently showing Governor Cuomo likely to defeat Republican Gubernatorial Candidate and Westchester County Executive Robert Astorino, and Comptroller DiNapoli having a comfortable lead over Republican candidate and Onondaga County Comptroller Bob Antonacci, Republicans have turned to the attorney general’s race as their best chance of winning a statewide seat. Low favorability ratings and a lack of notoriety amongst voters has made Schneiderman vulnerable to Republican attorney general candidate and former Governor Pataki aide, John P. Cahill.

Much of the focus will be on the Legislature this election season. While the Assembly Democrats are expected to retain their super-majority, the most hotly contested races are taking place in the Senate where the current power-sharing agreement between the Republicans and the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) is in limbo.

In 2010, four Senators broke away from the Senate Democratic Conference to form the IDC, leaving none of the three Senate conferences with enough members to constitute a true numerical majority. The IDC and the Republican Conference subsequently brokered a deal to share control of the Senate. However, at the urging of Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo, IDC Leader Jeff Klein and Senate Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins recently announced their intention to form a new power-sharing agreement post-election.

Consequently, the Senate Republican Conference must obtain an outright majority to remain in control. Doing so will be no easy feat as the Republican Conference must defend three vulnerable seats in districts with Democratic-enrollment advantages, retain four seats of members who are not seeking re-election, and pick up at least three additional seats. These challenges are further exacerbated by recent investigations into two Republican Conference leaders, including Senate Energy Chair George Maziarz who is not seeking another term. Maziarz’s departure will pave the way for a new Senate Energy Chair regardless of November’s outcome.


Money for Improving Electric Infrastructure Included in Obama's Climate Change Initiative   

Last month President Obama announced a series of climate change initiatives aimed at guarding electricity infrastructure and improving local planning for flooding, coastal erosion and storm surges.   

The actions, involving a variety of federal agencies, were among the recommendations of the President’s State, Local and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, a group of 26 officials who have worked since November to develop the proposals. 

One of the projects involves shoring up power supply during climate catastrophes, and the Department of Agriculture said in a joint announcement that it had awarded a total of $236.3 million to eight states to improve electricity infrastructure in rural areas. A government study released in May concluded that climate change would strain the ability of electric and gas utilities to deliver power as extreme weather damaged power lines and hotter temperatures drive up peak demand.

The nearly $1 billion National Disaster Resilience Competition, announced by the President in June, will make resources available to communities that have been struck by natural disasters in recent years.  Building on the success of the Rebuild by Design competition after Hurricane Sandy, this competition will create “replicable models of modern disaster recovery” that apply “science-based and forward-looking risk analysis” to address recovery and resilience needs.  The competition will also help communities create and implement disaster recovery plans that will make them better prepared for future extreme weather events. 

Tackling another of the recommendations, the United States Geological Survey and other federal agencies said they would spend $13.1 million to develop advanced three-dimensional mapping data that would allow cities and states to draft strategies in responding to weather-related disasters.

The new initiatives are part of a broader White House push to build support for Obama’s overall climate agenda.  Last month, he released an Environmental Protection Agency plan directing states to submit proposals to curb carbon pollution from power plants. The plan focuses on coal-fired plants, and lawmakers from coal-dependent states have called it a “war on coal.” The plan is expected to curb demand for coal, and likely lead to the closing of some coal burning plants.


Empowering Careers for High School Students   

 

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” 

This fall, over one hundred Con Edison employees will help local high school students consider the answer to this question and evaluate the skills needed to succeed in the workforce. 

Con Edison’s Job Shadow Program ‘Empowering Careers’ will kick off its second year on September 30th.  The program gives young people a chance to engage with utility professionals, learn about potential careers and understand the skills and academic requirements of different fields. 

Have you considered being a mentor?
Last year seven different departments participated, exposing students to an array of jobs and careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) that they may not have known about or considered. 

If your department is interested in participating this year,  send an email to shayw@coned.com with the subject line ‘Job Shadow’ to get more information on the requirements or to arrange for your department to provide mentors. 

Con Edison is committed to supporting programs that enhance educational endeavors.  We support programs that enrich science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) curricula. 

 


An Interview with Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer  

Gale A. Brewer is the 27th Manhattan Borough President, responsible for advising the Mayor and City Council on borough concerns, commenting on all land-use matters in the borough, advocating for the borough in the municipal budget process, and appointing members of Manhattan's 12 Community Boards. The Borough President also chairs the Borough Board, made up of City Council Members and Chairs from the Community Boards, and the Borough Services Cabinet, composed of senior officials from City agencies delivering services in the borough. Ms. Brewer previously served on the City Council for 12 years, from 2002 through 2013, representing the 6th Council District which includes most of the Upper West Side and northern Clinton.

Together with Midtown Council Member Dan Garodnick, you just announced that you will lead a diverse steering committee in planning the city’s Midtown East rezoning. Representatives from 11 organizations (including Community Boards 5 and 6, the Historic Districts Council, the Grand Central Partnership, the Regional Plan Association and the Real Estate Board of New York) will work with you to jumpstart the 73-block rezoning proposal that died in the City Council last winter. Can you explain how this effort evolved and the reasons you're spearheading the new group?

We’re taking the lead on East Midtown rezoning to ensure that economic growth and neighborhood vitality are equal priorities.

The interests of the community and the broader economic interests of the city need to be balanced with the commercial interests of East Midtown land owners, businesses and workers in the area.

A steering committee is the ideal way to hear from all stakeholders to determine which modifications are the most mutually beneficial. After establishing an informed knowledge base, the committee will develop a framework plan and specific recommendations.

Among the wide range of topics the committee will review are the need for updated commercial building stock in East Midtown, the appropriate density for the area, historic preservation, transit and other infrastructure priorities, and environmental concerns.

Your office was instrumental, along with the other local elected officials, in forming the Seaport Working Group in February 2014 with the goal of creating a set of urban design principles and guidelines for future seaport development. Can you tell us how that’s going and how the project fits in with your "Smart Development" approach to land-use development?

Well, the Seaport Working Group, which includes representatives from all stakeholders in the area, met for 11 weeks this spring, developing a framework of urban design principles and guidelines for future seaport development such as commercial vitality, building design, and connectivity.

On June 2, an Open House sponsored by the Seaport Working Group drew 150 members of the community to hear discussion about its draft framework: nine guidelines the group is recommending. The public was also able to review the guidelines on the web and comment on them. The guidelines received 91% approval, this confirms that this process is producing substantial results.

New York City has an obligation to maintain its waters’ edge—and we can’t turn those decisions over to private developers. The piers, streets, and buildings that constitute Community District 1 are a unique and irreplaceable part of our city’s history; the Seaport and its surrounding neighborhood is a public asset.

In order to develop Manhattan “smartly,” my office looks closely at the impact of multiple projects proposed in the same communities at the same time. Smart development that looks holistically at proposed projects can help avoid adverse impacts on schools, transportation, sanitation, and safety.

You recently testified in opposition to the Comcast and Time Warner Cable merger. How did you come to this decision?

During my years in elected office I have been an advocate for an open internet, with universal access to broadband. The size and scope of this new company would discourage any new companies from attempting entry to the telecom space. Absent any real or perceived future competition, Comcast would have little incentive to bring down prices, or pursue innovation. The proposed merger would create a massive conglomerate that would dominate 17 of the 20 largest media markets in the country.  It would also have unprecedented power in negotiations with networks and content providers-- not just Netflix, but also screenwriters and producers, of which there are many in Manhattan!

You’ve been a strong proponent of open access data and specifically an online, centralized FOIL portal. What are the benefits here and how do you ensure privacy protections?

In May, I introduced a bill with Councilmembers Ben Kallos and Jimmy Vacca to create a centralized, searchable database of Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests sent to city agencies. The proposed legislation would greatly benefit New Yorkers by centralizing the process of requesting records from city agencies and vastly streamlining every step of the process of responding to FOIL requests for records access officers. It would catalyze the city open data initiative by allowing for analytics-based publication of open data sets. It would improve public access to information and do so while saving taxpayers $10 million per year.

I’ve long been committed to open access to government data and see greater transparency as part of the solution. All New Yorkers should have access to information requests and FOIL information.

One of your responsibilities is appointing members to community boards—a big job in and of itself. How are you handling the transition from city council member to manager of the borough?

First, I have assembled an exceptionally talented, competent, and dedicated staff. I bucked tradition by appointing not one Deputy Borough President but two. Aldrin Rafael Bonilla, as Deputy Borough President for Community and Borough Operations, oversees all units and operations related to community and constituent affairs. As Deputy Borough President for Policy and Budget, Joe Garba spearheads efforts on affordable housing, education, senior services, and strategic analysis of the city budget.

Because land use and development are the core responsibility of the Borough President’s Office, I have likewise assembled a strong land-use team to research, assess, and weigh in on decisions critical to the sustainability of our neighborhoods, their economic health, infrastructure, and quality of life.

As I mentioned, smart development that looks not just at a project but at everything that’s going on in the target community during implementation will keep our borough and our city functioning at its best while growing and creating opportunity. Stakeholders collaborate on smart development before a plan is even certified or a shovel ever hits the ground.  I am making sure neighborhood stakeholders, particularly at the community boards, have access to the appropriate open data sets, mapping tools and relevant trainings to weigh the merit of development proposals and evaluate possible environmental, transportation, open space and school capacity impacts.   

Finally, strengthening engagement among Manhattan’s 12 Community Boards—the city’s most decentralized, closest-to-the-ground form of government—has been an important priority.  Toward that end, my office has launched the Community Board Leadership Development Series which so far has trained over 180 current and prospective Community Board Members  on such topics as Land Use and Zoning, Effective Resolution Writing, Parliamentary Procedure, and the Budgetary Process.

It’s also worth mentioning that I’ve always relied on many talented interns, volunteers, and staff to provide free housing clinics, create “age-friendly” neighborhoods, provide seniors farm-fresh affordable produce, organize tenant associations in every NYCHA development, and make streets safer and greener.

As Borough President, I’m working to achieve similar goals borough-wide through effective Community Boards. In June, I co-sponsored a Council resolution to allow 16- and 17-year-olds to serve on Community Boards, instead of having to wait until they are 18. A bill to allow that has been approved by the state legislature—as is required for a chance such as this—and is awaiting the governor’s signature as of this writing.

 


 

Donate School Supplies to Kids in Need

Back-to-School time is quickly approaching! Give children in need a boost by donating classroom school supplies. Con Edison is collecting items, Monday, August 4 through Friday, August 15, for our nonprofit partner St. Francis Food Pantries and Shelters to distribute. The following are the requested items needed:
   • Backpacks
   • Pens, pencils, pencil cases, sharpeners, erasers
   • Composition books, spiral notebooks
   • Binders, pocket folders
   • Crayola crayons, colored pencils, and markers
   • Calculators
   • Glue sticks, tape, scissors
   • Rulers, protractors

You’ll find collection bins in the lobbies of the following locations, except where otherwise noted:

   • 30 Flat Bush Avenue, Brooklyn
   • 511 Theodore Fremd Avenue, Westchester
   • The Learning Center, 43-82 Vernon Blvd., Queens
   • 4 Irving Place, Room 1650-S, Manhattan
   • 59-17 Junction Blvd., Queens
   • 1 Davis Avenue, Staten Island
   • 1615 Bronxdale Avenue, Building 1601, Bronx
 

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