Monday, January 31, 2011

Concentrate NYS Prison Closings Upstate

Governor Cuomo should not back down from his efforts to close some of New York State's upstate prisons. Nearly all of New York State's incarcerated individuals come from the New York City metro area, while those individuals are incarcerated far from New York City, reducing their contact with family and friends and reducing opportunities for healthy re-entry.

Cuomo Eloquent and Accurate on Prisons

Governor Andrew Cuomo was both eloquent and accurate when he stated his desire to close prisons and end the practice of incarcerating New York City residents in order to provide full prisons and employment in Upstate New York.
An incarceration program is not an employment program . . . Don't put other
people in prison in order to give some people jobs.

Unfortunately, New York State has spent thirty years incarcerating New York City residents in order to create jobs in areas far from New York City.

Ninety percent of those incarcerated in New York State on drug crimes are Black or Hispanic, even though 73% of those using illegal drugs in our state are neither Black or Hispanic. There has been a calculated effort to transfer voting power and economic opportunities to upstate communities through incarceration, and the practice should stop. With New York State facing more than ten billion dollars of deficits for each of the new few years, closing prisons helps close our budget gap while promoting productive citizenship for non-violent first-time offenders. The racial and regional discrimination represented by the current system must come to an end during the Andrew Cuomo years.

Healthier Prison Approach

Upstate Republicans are lobbying to keep their prisons and to have the Cuomo Administration close prisons in New York City. Governor Cuomo is reportedly considering closing fewer prisons than his original plan of up to 12 closings. He also is reportedly considering closing New York City prisons rather than prisons upstate.

Fewer closings and concentrated closings in New York City both represent the wrong approach.

By closing prisons in New York City, existing problems will be exacerbated. Given that prisoners come almost exclusively from New York City, having fewer prisons in New York City would result in even greater dislocation for those incarcerated as well as for their friends and families. Families of those incarcerated wish to visit and share experiences with prisoners, and moving prisons out of New York City will mean that even fewer families will be physically close enough to their incarcerated family members to visit regularly and inexpensively. The prisoners themselves have a healthier period of incarceration as well as a safer environment when they get regular visits from loved ones. The contact with the outside world promotes less traumatic re-entry and lower recidivism, thereby enhancing tax revenues for our city and our state while creating better lives for those seeking a second chance.

Governor Cuomo should both seek greater prison closings and concentrate those closings upstate. Our state's Republicans have benefited politically from the status quo - a system in which New York City residents and Black and Hispanic New Yorkers are sent to prison in large numbers in order to boost both the voting power and the economies of upstate communities.

Monday, January 24, 2011

NYC Should Control NYC

New York City needs more authority over its own affairs. The New York State government in Albany is not an appropriate parent organization to run NYC from a distance.

Albany's Greater Dysfunction

The NY State government in Albany is more dysfunctional than the NYC government, and the NY State financial situation is far worse than the NYC budget shortfall. Therefore, having NYC decisions made in Albany is counterproductive and harmful.

New York State is well known for having the most dysfunctional government in the United States, and it has a $9 billion budget deficit that will grow to $17 billion over the next two years. Even massive tax increases will not solve New York State's budget problems. Without assessing blame, we can all agree that New York State is troubled right now. With our new Governor giving every indication that he is ready to take serious action to turn around our state's fiscal woes, there is hope for a brighter future.

New York City is not is good condition, but it is in far better shape than our state. NYC has a budget deficit of just $2.4 billion and hope for the Wall Street recovery to shrink that deficit even further. We have been very critical of the Mayor's efforts to increase revenues for NYC through regressive taxes and his general incompetence in leading our city's economic and fiscal apparatus. But, the Mayor's incompetence and fiscal failures do not approach the level of dysfunction we see in Albany.

Albany Ruling NYC

For too many areas of NYC governance, Albany is in charge.

The NYPD residency requirements are set by Albany. The NYPD is overloaded with leadership and individual officers who mistreat NYC residents. One of the reasons for that unfortunate reality is the fact that NYPD officers are not required to be NYC residents themselves. Some NYPD officers have always hated NYC and its residents, and their attitude shows in their behavior. By making NYC residency a requirement of the NYPD, many of the problems caused by the NYPD would be reduced. Because NYC cannot set its own residency requirements, we must suffer the costly abuse and mismanagement so common within the NYPD.

Our city's rent control policies are burdened by Albany control as well. In 1971, Albany took away New York City's authority over its own rent control regime. Mayor Bloomberg has opposed returning control to New York City, even though he is our city's Mayor. New York City should manage its own affairs in housing rather than operating based on preferences from politicians who will never even visit our city. The Mayor could not be more wrong on this topic, and Albany could not be a worse place from which to make specific decisions about life in New York City.

The New York Times editorial last week asked for our city's pension regime to be controlled by NYC rather than by Albany. Pensions are a major reason for the expected fiscal challenges looming for our city, yet our city cannot drive the pension regime to match our city's resources. For now, Albany has been very generous with NYC pensions, but if Albany moves to gut the pensions of our city's workers, our city is powerless to protect itself. Mayor Bloomberg is correct to seek New York City control of its pensions, and we hope that he will be successful in that quest. If he succeeds in acquiring control, we hope that he will not use it to abuse working families the way he has abused our city with regressive taxes, race-based policing, and incompetent management.

Monday, January 17, 2011

New York Defeats Boston in Venture Capital

On this Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and the day following the thrilling playoff victory of the New York Jets over the New England Patriots, we note that venture capital deals and spending in New York City are now greater than that of Boston, and the trend is toward a widening gap between New York and Boston. New reports comparing the State of New York and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts make this rather surprising result clear.

Venture Capital and Innovation

Venture capital, investing in new companies with enormous potential for explosive growth, has been dominated by the State of California with the bulk of venture capital activity focused in and around the San Francisco metro area.

Venture capital spending gives rise to economic opportunity as investors seek to operate in close physical proximity to each other and new innovators seek to operate close to a target-rich environment of investors. Professional services (e.g., accounting, legal) follow the trail to the geographic epicenter of new business creation and economic growth.

Surrounding start-up companies are economic opportunities in housing, entertainment, and nearly every element of local economic success.

Bringing venture capital activity to a city creates a multiplier effect that helps improve economic conditions for individuals close to new business development but also for street vendors, dry cleaners, janitors, and other workers whose work, while not directly tied to start-up investing, grows when new businesses emerge.

Boston Loses to New York

Boston has long been the largest East Coast center of venture capital investing, but New York has now taken the lead on the East Coast for internet investing. Overall, for all sectors of venture investing, Boston is still larger than New York. But, the internet sector, a key bellwether and the heart and soul of venture success for the last 15 years, is now a New York-led sector on the East Coast.

While internet investments are the most discussed in the venture capital sector, the healthcare sector has long been the fastest growing large sector in the overall economy. Boston still leads New York by a large margin in the healthcare sector as well as in many other areas.

Green technologies represent a new frontier where New York must find a way to be a leader and reduce the overall gap between New York and East Coast venture capital leader Boston. The New York metro area, Long Island in particular, has already seen meaningful investment dollars come into the green technology area, and we must find ways to encourage investors and innovators to view the New York metro area as the preferred location for emerging companies in the green technology area. US Representative Steve Israel of Long Island has secured federal funding to promote green technology research in the New York metro area, and expanded efforts of that type are necessary to propel the New York metro area into a substantial lead in the green technology arena.

A look at the top 100 venture capital firms shows that less than 10% of them are based in the New York metro area, even when including the Princeton, NJ area as part of the New York metro area.

New York City's leadership must work together in an aggressive and thoughtful manner to bring New York into the top echelon of venture capital investing locations.

Monday, January 10, 2011

NCAA Abuses Defenseless Men of Color

With tonight's end of the college football season, we are reminded that Manhattan is the home of the Heisman Trophy and that the men who seek that trophy are being abused by the collegiate athletic regime currently in place. The NCAA controls nearly aspect of the lives of the college athletes and will not allow those athletes to benefit in any way from the billions of dollars of value they create for others.

Heisman Trophy

The Heisman Trophy is the most prestigious award in college sports. It is provided each year to the most outstanding football player in college football.

The award has always been headquartered in Manhattan. John Heisman was a legendary player, coach, and athletic director in college football. After his incredible career, he retired in New York City. At the Downtown Athletic Club in lower Manhattan, Heisman organized a process to select the most outstanding college football player. The first award was announced in 1935, but Heisman died before the 1936 award presentation. The Downtown Athletic Club named the award after Heisman and hosted the award ceremony until the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks damaged the Dowtown Athletic Club. Other Manhattan locations have hosted the ceremony in the years since 2001, and the Heisman Trophy's connection to Manhattan has been strengthened by the past decade rather than weakened by it.

Pay the Players in the Revenue Producing Sports

Maryland's Basketball Coach has advocated paying the student-athletes in the sports that generate large revenues for their schools. He has suggested a $200 per month stipend. But, one wonders why there are so few advocates for his suggested approach.

The NCAA generates more than $700 million each year, primarily from television rights. The schools represented by the NCAA generate additional revenue from merchandise sales and other opportunities. None of that revenue is shared with the athletes that are responsible for the creation of that revenue.

The NCAA's use of the likenesses of student-athletes in video games, on apparel, and on television promotions has caused a lawsuit based on the NCAA's apparent monopoly in the area of collegiate athletics, and the plaintiff is hoping to create momentum for paying student-athletes.

The monopoly's determination to avoid sharing the benefits of the athletes' talents with the athletes has an unmistakable racial component. In the modern era, as television revenues have exploded and wealth has been created by college sports, the athletes competing in the revenue producing sports of football and basketball are increasingly persons of color. The sports generating the largest amount of revenue are dominated by young men of color. The National Football League is nearly 70% Black, and college football is nearly 50% Black. The Division I college basketball rosters are approximately two-thirds Black. Young men of color have become the typical winners of and top competitors for the Heisman Trophy, and no athletes have been able to share in the revenues created by these individuals.

No Advocates for Student Athletes

The whales have Save the Whales. Professional athletes have unions;but student-athletes have no advocate.

The NCAA is $700 million each year to spend of defending its interests. Student-athletes are forbidden from even selling their own property to generate cash to defend their interests. When the NCAA takes action against a student-athlete, there is no defense attorney provided. The colleges look out for themselves and no one is positioned to defend the student-athlete.

If the NCAA continues to forbid student-athletes from receiving discounted services, they should face additional legal action. The NCAA is, in many ways, the adversary of these young men of color that generate all of the NCAA's revenue. The NCAA has attorneys, accountants, experts, consultants, and every type of professional guidance. The student athlete is not only on his/her own in battling the NCAA, but the NCAA's rules would both forbid the athlete for paying for guidance by selling assets and prevent the athlete from accepting guidance at no charge from a non-profit. They have twisted the concept of amateurism to mean that the NCAA has unlimited power to abuse the young people that create the NCAA's revenue and that those young people are violating rules by preparing the defend themselves against the NCAA.

These young people need an organization to defend them against the NCAA monopoly, and the NCAA must recognize the rights of these young people to accept guidance from professionals seeking to level the playing field.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Bloomberg Mismanagement Reigns Down on NYC

NYC Mayor Bloomberg's mismanagement cost lives last week, and it has cost all of us hundreds of millions of dollars in government waste. Ironically, Mayor Bloomberg's argument for changing the City Charter to give himself a third term as Mayor was that our city needed him as its leader. It turns out, we cannot afford to keep him as our leader.

City Time Costs Us More than $600 million in Mismanagement and Fraud

New York City hired a company to oversee its "City Time" project for the re-engineering of the city's payroll systems. The cost was expected to be $63 million, but it has now cost $722 million - more than ten times the planned cost.

But, it gets worse. The firm that was overseeing City Time was permitted to choose its own watchdog. In essence, NYC decided that no one would watch a $63 million project, and the project is going to likely end up costing $1 billion.

The Bloomberg Administration also allowed more than $80 million to be stolen from a $63 million project.

The four people accused of stealing the $80 million are going to be prosecuted, but Mayor Bloomberg is not being held accountable for all of the mismanagement represented by the cost over-run of more than $600 million or for the policies and approaches that allowed $80 million to be stolen.

If these things keep happening, we'll have to have Public Advocate Bill de Blasio take over for the Mayor. We simply cannot afford for the Mayor to misplace nearly a billion dollars of our money every once in a while for three more years.

Snowy Week

The snow defeated Mayor Bloomberg last week.

Previous Mayors have succeeded in preparing for and managing worse snow storms, but Mayor Bloomberg was caught off guard, even though there was plenty of warning of the coming snow storm. City Hall has refused to address whether Bloomberg was in NYC during the blizzard. He regularly spends weekends in Bermuda and likely was not in NYC at the critical moment.

The Bloomberg Administration got started late, made poor decisions that were inconsistent with previous, successful efforts to combat snow storms, and failed to adequately adjust to its own missteps. The cascade effect of their multiple major errors overwhelmed them, and the overall effort collapsed. Instead of benefiting from Bloomberg's experience in his third term, we are suffering from his arrogance and his lack of attention to our city. Bloomberg is a cliche and a caricature - the excuse often cited for term limits - a poor leader who is elected reluctantly and whose performance declines from mediocre to disaster after a long period in power. The December 26 snow storm disaster is a warning sign. We have three years more of Bloomberg, and the cracks are becoming clearer and clearer.

We cannot afford the current trend to continue.