Pas de Deux: The Budget Dance Begins
Are those vultures circling over Gracie Mansion?
At the November UFT Delegate Meeting Michael Mulgrew addressed Mayor Adams plans for drastic budget cuts, and asked whether the delegates were ready to “go to war,”
Adams’ announcement was not a surprise, all mayors are required to release a November Plan, (See the 300 plus page City Charter here). George Sweeting at the Center for NYC Affairs wrote,
Last week, Mayor Eric Adams released a first-quarter modification to the current (Fiscal Year 2024) budget, as required by the City Charter. It included well-publicized cuts of roughly five percent to the City-funded portion of all agency budgets, including that of the Department of Education (DOE). Two rounds of similar-size cuts are expected by next spring, producing 15 percent overall reductions this fiscal year.
The Police Department, who in spite of the “Defund the Police” cries have averted cuts would see reductions through attrition and reassignments, a headcount at 1993 levels. Read here
Adams is looking for allies and none are more powerful than the municipal unions and the proposed cuts can be averted with federal and state dollars. Adams is playing tough guy, join me in the fight or face dramatic reductions in staffing, and union membership. The unions point to record “rainy day” dollars, increasing tax revenues and a growing city economy. Rather than allies Adams has alienated the unions and many New Yorkers.
The budget requires the approval of the City Council and Council member Justin Brennan, the chair of Finance Committee has been outspoken about what he sees as a ploy, the beginning of a negotiation (See interview with Brennan here). Brennan had a tough race in November, Council member Kagan’s district was eliminated in the recent City Council redistricting and Kagan ran against Brennan on the Republican line as a Trumper. The UFT jumped in with boots on the ground, Brennan won easily.
In Federalist # 51 Madison framed the role of government concisely,
The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place. It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself
Mulgrew has been incredibly adept at navigating the Scylla and Caribous of politics; the eddies and whirlpools.
As Bloomberg raced to Albany to change the tenure laws and a Chicago Plan, excessed teachers if they can’t find a job are laid off; Mulgrew called in political credits; Bloomberg was faced with deaf ears in Albany.
The UFT chose not to negotiate a contract, in New York State public employee contracts remain in full force and effect until the successor contract is ratified. A new mayor, a contract with retroactive salary, and Bloomberg’s reputation suffered, his $100 million run for the presidency was embarrassing.
Politics is based on relationships, on building trust, on supporting common issues, and, yes, contributing dollars.
Bloomberg has the dollars, not the trust.
In my role as a board member on a CUNY alumni board I met with Brannan to encourage him to support the return to free tuition at CUNY, he was receptive and included in his stump speech and maybe CUNY grads took notice.
Adams proposed budget cuts require the approval of the City Council and Brannan chairs the key Finance Committee
I doubt Adams has a copy of the Federalist Papers on his nightstand, more likely Machiavelli’s The Prince, and his favorite quote,
It is better to be feared than loved if I can’t have both.
However, Adams is neither feared nor loved,
Among New York City voters, 37 percent approved of the job Eric Adams has done as mayor while 56 percent disapproved. That’s a long way from a Marist survey in March 2022, just a few months into his term, when he polled favorably 61 percent to 24 percent.
A UFT sponsored rally in front a school in Brownsville, one of the poorest school districts in the city made headlines in the media. Watch a Mulgrew interview by CBS here.
The City Council is beginning oversight hearings and the unions will increase the pressure on the Mayor. The UFT is already online asking members and parents to contact their City Council member. Take a few minutes and contact your Council member:
I’ve heard a few folks call for a city-wide strike: whom are you striking against? As Madison so eloquently said, In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself
The mayor is one element of government, the fifty-one City Council members are partners in the budgeting process.
It’s a long time from December to June, the budget must be agreed to by June 30th.
Somewhere along the line Adams will attempt to roll back the five year timeframe for implementation of the Class Size Reduction Law, the law does not impact the budget until the 25-26 budget year, a billion dollar hit, no action has to be taken, the time frame is in the law, the law would have to be changed and Adams has no clout in Albany.
Adams major Albany problem is mayoral control that sunsets on June 30th, unless the law is changed the NYC school board will return to one member appointed by each boro president and two by the mayor. The “movers and shakers” in Albany have made it clear, mayoral control is gone, public hearings are beginning next month. Anyone can testify in person or submit testimony.
Governor Hochul’s State of the State speech the first week in January, may, or may not address the city’s fiscal woes, or mayoral control; the governor’s executive budget is due the end of January, once again, may or may not address the Adams’ pleas.
Mulgrew has been adept at untangling the twisted ball of political twine and avoiding the political quicksand.
His push for a contract completed by the end of the year avoided tangling the contract negotiations with the budget.
The shape and future of retiree health plans are in the Appellate Courts with decisions probably many months away, in-service member health plans are being negotiated by the Municipal Labor Coalition, and, yes, we’re less than a year away from a presidential election.
How do you satisfy the factions within the union without alienating members, how do you take positions on contentious issues without chasing away electeds you need to support the union.
Of course the feds might lead the mayor away in handcuffs and all bets will be off: a ranked choice election with a dozen candidates?
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