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City Politics

Vote Tuesday, November 6, 2018!

Citizens Union, a government watchdog group founded in 1897, has studied the candidates and proposals that are on the ballot. Below is their endorsement for NYS Attorney General, and an analysis of the proposals that you may have missed but that could change your life.


ENDORSED CANDIDATE: Letitia James – Democrat 

Occupation: New York City Public Advocate


Letitia James is the New York City Public Advocate, and the first woman of color to hold citywide office. Her tenure as Public Advocate has been characterized by frequent litigation, having initiated more lawsuits than any of her predecessors. James has used the office to bring attention to issues of criminal justice, affordable housing and tenants’ rights, and to provide greater resources to underserved children and families.

James has also served as a New York City Council Member, headed the Brooklyn Regional Office and Civil Rights Bureau of the Attorney General’s office under Eliot Spitzer, and worked as a public defender for The Legal Aid Society. James’s platform for the Attorney General’s office includes challenging federal policies that harm New Yorkers – especially in the area of civil rights and the environment, ensuring robust consumer protections, and enforcing pay equity.

James is also committed to utilizing a joint task force between the Attorney General and Comptroller to root out abuses in state government, closing the LLC loophole to end pay-to-play schemes, and civilly prosecuting businesses that use bribes and kickbacks to win political favors.

In the realm of campaign finance reform, James favors the creation of a statewide public financing system, eliminating housekeeping accounts, and overturning Citizens United v. FEC with the help of other state AGs. James is a seasoned candidate with extensive government experience, and knowledge of the Attorney General’s office.

While, Citizens Union is concerned about her ability to remain independent from the Governor and party leaders when a major focus of the office should be on corruption in Albany, CU believes that Letitia James’s experience, energy, knowledge of the office and demonstrated record of public service merit her receiving our endorsement in this race.



This proposal would amend the City Charter to lower the amount a candidate for City elected office may accept from a contributor. It would also increase the public funding used to match a portion of the contributions received by a candidate who participates in the City’s public financing program. In addition, the proposal would make public matching funds available earlier in the election year to participating candidates who can demonstrate need for the funds. It would also ease a requirement that candidates for Mayor, Comptroller, or Public Advocate must meet to qualify for matching funds. The amendments would apply to participating candidates who choose to have the amendments apply to their campaigns beginning with the 2021 primary election, and would then apply to all candidates beginning in 2022. Shall this proposal be adopted?





Citizens Union has carefully studied proposal 1 and is not able to take a position on the proposal. Citizens Union has long supported New York City’s campaign finance system and holds it up as a national model, and we continue to do so. While we agree that an effort needs to be made to reduce the influence of money in elections, particularly in the election of citywide officials, the case has not been made for the full package of recommendations contained in proposal 1, notably the use of city funds for the expanded match for borough and City Council elections. Should proposal 1 be defeated, we urge appropriate changes be made to the campaign finance law to lower the contribution limits for all offices and increase the match for city-wide officials either by the City Council or through recommendations by the current Charter Revision Commission formed by the City Council, so that appropriate changes can be made to the 2021 citywide election


Proposal Number 2


This proposal would amend the City Charter to: Create a Civic Engagement Commission that would implement, no later than the City Fiscal Year beginning July 1, 2020, a Citywide participatory budgeting program established by the Mayor to promote participation by City residents in making recommendations for projects in their communities; Require the Commission to partner with community based organizations and civic leaders, as well as other City agencies, to support and encourage civic engagement efforts; Require the Commission to establish a program to provide language interpreters at City poll sites, to be implemented for the general election in 2020; Permit the Mayor to assign relevant powers and duties of certain other City agencies to the Commission; Provide that the Civic Engagement Commission would have 15 members, with 8 members appointed by the Mayor, 2 members by the City Council Speaker and 1 member by each Borough President; and Provide for one of the Mayor’s appointees to be Commission Chair and for the Chair to employ and direct Commission staff. Shall this proposal be adopted?




Citizens Union recommends a “no” vote on proposal 2. While we support many of the goals outlined for the proposed Civic Engagement Commission, including broader language access at polling sites throughout New York City and increased civic engagement programming citywide, we believe the Commission was insufficiently thought through and lacks independence. The Commission is designed to give the Mayor a majority of seats and in doing so does not provide the requisite independence from control by any single public official. A commission with leverage over a myriad of important issues such as assisting voters at polling sites and providing technical assistance to community boards should be completely independent from the Mayor, or any political office.  We believe that civic engagement would best be promoted at this point through establishing individual or pilot initiatives through the legislative process.

Proposal Number 3



This proposal would amend the City Charter to: Impose term limits of a maximum of four consecutive full two-year terms for community board members with certain exceptions for the initial transition to the new term limits system; Require Borough Presidents to seek out persons of diverse backgrounds in making appointments to community boards. The proposal would also add new application and reporting requirements related to these appointments; and If Question 2, “Civic Engagement Commission,” is approved, require the proposed Civic Engagement Commission to provide resources, assistance, and training related to land use and other matters to community boards. Shall this proposal be adopted?



Citizens Union recommends a “yes” vote on proposal 3. This proposal would institute four two-year term limits for community board members, streamline the application process for community board appointments, and require all Borough Presidents to annually report on their outreach and recruitment methods, as well as evaluation criteria for community board appointments. Collectively these reforms ensure that representation on boards can keep pace with changing demographics of communities and benefit from new perspectives and energy.  The proposal also would provide more standardization and transparency for the community and aspiring board members, and lead to a more rigorous selection process for board appointments. If proposal 2 is defeated, then a new mechanism will be necessary to provide the additional technical assistance that community boards need.


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