Government of New York City

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New York City Hall is the seat of government of the City of New York.

The government of New York City is organized under the City Charter and provides for a "strong" mayor-council system. The government of New York is more centralized than that of most other U.S. cities. In New York City, the central government is responsible for public education, correctional institutions, libraries, public safety, recreational facilities, sanitation, water supply, and welfare services.

The mayor is elected to a four year term and is responsible for the administration of city government. Councilors are elected to two year terms. The New York City Council is a unicameral body consisting of 51 Council members whose districts are defined by geographic population boundaries.

New York City's political geography is unusual. It is made up of five counties, each nearly coterminous with the five boroughs. Manhattan is New York County, Queens is Queens County, Brooklyn is Kings County, The Bronx is Bronx County and Staten Island is Richmond County. When New York City was consolidated into its present form in 1898, all previous local governments were abolished and replaced with the current unified, centralized city government. However, each county retains its own district attorneys to prosecute crimes, and most of the court system is organized around the counties, independently of the city.

As the host of the United Nations, New York City is also home to the world's largest international consular corps, comprising 105 consulates, consulates general and honorary consulates.<ref>Society of Foreign Consuls, About us. Retrieved on 2006-07-19.</ref>


[edit] Executive branch

The Executive branch of New York City consists of the mayor, elected by direct popular vote, and his deputies. The heads of about 50 city departments are appointed by the mayor. The mayor also appoints several Deputy Mayors to head major offices within the executive branch of the city government. Deputy Mayors report directly to the Mayor.

The Executive branch is responsible for all city services, police and fire protection, enforcement of all city and state laws within the city, and administration of public property and most public agencies. The mayor is directly elected by popular vote for a four year term, and faces a two-term limit.

The current mayor is Michael Bloomberg, a former Democrat elected as a Republican in 2001 and re-elected in 2005 with 59% of the vote. He is known for restructuring the governance of the city school system, rezoning and economic development initiatives, and pursuing an aggressive public health policy such as banning smoking in bars and restaurants and banning trans-fats from restaurant foods. In his second term, he has made school reform and strict gun control central priorities of his administration.

[edit] Comptroller

The Comptroller is the city's chief financial officer elected directly by city voters. In addition to managing the city's $80 billion pension fund, the Comptroller advises the mayor and the City Council on all financial matters, fiscal policy and financial transactions. The Office of the Comptroller is empowered with limited investigational power over all city expenditures and finance, and is responsible for auditing the finances of all city agencies. The Comptroller is a trustee on 4 of the 5 NYC pension funds, and serves as investment advisor to all five, representing $80 billion of assets, meaning s/he is responsible for managing the assets of the pension funds. The Comptroller also has responsibility for issuing and marketing all city bonds.

The current Comptroller, elected in 2001 and re-elected in 2005, is William C. Thompson, Jr., a Democrat. Term limits prevent him from seeking reelection in 2009.

[edit] Public Advocate

The Public Advocate is a directly elected executive official and heads the Office of the Public Advocate. The Public Advocate's primary responsibility is to ease public relations with the government, investigate complaints regarding city agencies, mediate disputes between city agencies and citizens, serve as the city's ombudsman and advise the mayor on community relations. The Public Advocate serves as the presiding officer of the New York City Council and is an ex-officio member of all Council committees. The Public Advocate is permitted to introduce legislation in the Council.

A holdover from what was "City Council President," the position of Public Advocate has little real enforceable authority.

The current Public Advocate is Betsy Gotbaum, a Democrat. She was elected in 2001 and re-elected in 2005. Term limits prevent her from seeking a third term in 2009.

[edit] Borough presidents

The five boroughs are nearly coterminous with their respective counties, but the counties do not have actual county governments. Each borough elects a Borough President by direct popular vote. Under the current city charter, the Borough President's powers are limited. (The last significant power of the borough presidents — to appoint a member of the Board of Education — was abolished, along with the Board, on June 30, 2002.)

Borough presidents advise the Mayor on issues relating to each borough, comment on all land use items in their borough, advocate borough needs in the annual municipal budget process, administer a small discretionary budget for projects within each borough, appoint Community Boards, and chair the Borough Boards.

[edit] Legislative branch

Main article: New York City Council

Legislative power in New York City is vested in the the New York City Council. Bills passed by a simple majority are sent to the mayor, who may sign them into law. If the mayor vetoes a bill, the Council has 30 days to override the veto by a two-thirds majority vote.

The Coucil is a unicameral body consisting of 51 Council members, whose districts are defined by geographic population boundaries that each contain approximately 157,000 people. Council members are elected every four years.

The Speaker of the Council, selected by the 51 Council members, is considered the second most powerful post in New York City's government after the Mayor. The current Speaker is Democrat Christine Quinn, the first woman and first openly gay person to hold the position.

The Council has several committees with oversight of various functions of the city government. Each council member sits on at least three standing, select or subcommittees. The standing committees meet at least once per month. The Speaker of the Council, the Majority Leader, and the Minority Leader are all ex officio members of every committee.

[edit] Judicial branch

Main article: New York City Courts
The New York County Supreme Court building in Manhattan.

New York City has civil, criminal, and family court systems. All have a presence in each borough and have city-wide jurisdiction.

The New York City Civil Court handles all small claims cases (up to $5,000) and all civil cases in the city with a monetary value up to $25,000, as well as residential and commercial landlord-tenant disputes. Judges of the Civil Court are elected to 10 year terms in either borough-wide or district elections

The New York City Criminal Court is the beginning level trial court of criminal cases in the city. The court handles arraignments, misdemeanors, and minor felony cases. Criminal motions are also handled in this court, along with some jury trials. Major felony cases are referred to the New York State Supreme Court. Judges of the Criminal Court are appointed by the Mayor to 10 year terms.

The New York City Family Court hears matters involving children and families. Its jurisdiction includes custody and visitation, support, family offense (domestic violence), persons in need of supervision, delinquency, child protective proceedings (abuse and neglect), foster care approval and review, termination of parental rights, adoption and guardianship. Judges of the Family Court are appointed by the Mayor to 10 year terms.

The New York City Supreme Court is the trial court of unlimited original jurisdiction, but it generally only hears cases that are outside the jurisdiction of other trial courts of more limited jurisdiction. It exercises civil jurisdiction and jurisdiction over felony charges.

The Red Hook Community Justice Center in Brooklyn opened in 2000 as the nation's first multi-jurisdictional community court. Built to alleviate the chronic lack of access to justice services in the isolated Red Hook area, the court combines family court, civil and housing court and minor criminal court functions and takes a community development approach to justice through such programs as the Youth Court where teenagers are trained and act as mediators to help their peers resolve disputes.

[edit] Community Boards

See also Community Boards of Manhattan

New York City is divided into 59 administrative districts, each served by a Community Board. Community Boards are local representative bodies that serve as advocates for New York City residents and communities. Each Board has up to 50 voting members, with one half of the membership appointed each year for two-year terms; there are no term limits. Additionally, all city council members whose council districts cover part of a community district are non-voting, ex-officio Board members. Borough Presidents appoint the voting Community Board members, with half of the appointees nominated by council members representing the district. Broadly assigned by the city charter to "Consider the needs of the district which it serves," the Boards have been limited in their ability by ineffective local communication channels, small budgets and old technology. This has lead to loss of public confidence in some Community Boards. The BeyondVoting Wiki and the Community-Based Planning Task Force have begun to address the limitations. See About Community Boards for more on their operation.

[edit] Other features

[edit] City budget

The New York City government's budget is the largest municipal budget in the United States. The city government spends about $50 billion a year, employs 250,000 people, spends about $15 billion to educate more than 1.1 million children, levies $27 billion in taxes, and receives $14 billion from federal and state governments. New York State has more than 4,200 local governments in the form of counties, cities, towns, and villages. About 52% of all revenue raised by local governments in the state is raised solely by the government of New York City, which spends it on education (31%), social services (20%), public safety (13%), and benefits and pensions (10%).<ref>Office of the New York State Comptroller. "2006 Annual Report on Local Governments", 2006-11. Retrieved on 2006-11-14.</ref> New York City property taxes are lower than those in the suburbs because most of the city's revenue comes from income and sales taxes.

The city has a strong imbalance of payments with the Federal and state governments. New York City receives 83 cents in services for every $1 it sends to Washington in taxes (or annually sends $13.1 billion more to Washington than it receives back). The city also sends an additional $11.1 billion more each year to the state of New York than it receives back.<ref>New York City Finance Division. "A Fair Share State Budget: Does Albany Play Fair with NYC?", 2005-03-11. Retrieved on 2006-07-19.</ref>

[edit] Term limits and campaign finance

A two-term limit was imposed on City Council members and citywide elected officials after a 1993 referendum. In 1996, voters turned down a City Council proposal to extend term limits. The movement to introduce term limits was led by Ronald Lauder, a cosmetics heir, who spent $4 million on the two referendums.

The City Council has sought to extend the term limits without much success. The issue regained momentum under new City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who is interested in extending limits to allow for a third term.

Some council members have called for making a change to term limits through legislation rather than putting it before the voters again. Mayor Michael Bloomberg opposes extending term limits.

New York has what is widely regarded as one of the most effective municipal campaign finance systems in the United States. The New York City Campaign Finance Board was created in 1988 in the wake of several political corruption scandals. It gives public matching funds to qualifying candidates, who in exchange submit to strict contribution and spending limits and a full audit of their finances. Citywide candidates in the program are required to take part in debates. Corporate contributions are banned and political action committees must register with the city.

[edit] Political culture

The Democratic Party holds the majority of public offices. 66% of registered voters in the city are Democrats.<ref>New York State Board of Elections. "County Enrollment Totals", 2006-04-01. Retrieved on 2006-07-19.</ref> New York City has not been won by a Republican in a Presidential or statewide election since 1924. This is in contrast to New York state as a whole, which is somewhat less liberal (though it has trended Democratic in most recent elections). However, Democrats currently have a supermajority in the New York State Assembly by virtue of holding nearly every city-based district. The New York State Senate gives more weight to the upstate region, and Republicans have a narrow majority.

The city has historically elected Democratic mayoral candidates. The current and previous mayor, however, are pro-choice Republicans considerably to the left of their national counterparts. Labor and education politics are important. Housing and economic development are the most controversial topics, with an ongoing debate over the proposed Brooklyn Nets Arena. An ability to deal with the state government is also crucial, especially on matters of education funding.

The Working Families Party, affiliated with the labor movement and progressive community activists, is an important force in city politics. The Democratic Party holds the majority of public offices. Party platforms are centered on affordable housing, education and economic development.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has suggested the idea of nonpartisan elections for city offices, as many other cities use, but the idea currently has little support among other public officials.

[edit] Political influence

New York City politicians often exert influence outside the city in response to the city's many diverse constituiences.

For example, the MacBride Principles were a set of nine equal employment opportunity guidelines for firms operating in Northern Ireland promulgated in 1984 by the late Irish statesman and Nobel Peace laureate Sean MacBride and several associates, and originally developed by the New York City Comptroller’s Office under the direction of then Comptroller Harrison J. Goldin. The MacBride Principles call on companies operating in Norther Ireland to increase employment opportunities for members of underrepresented religious groups, ban the display of provocative sectarian emblems in the workplace, promote security for minority employees and abolish hiring criteria that discriminate on the basis of religion or ethnicity. As a major institutional investor, the New York City Pension Funds has aggressively encouraged adoption of the MacBride Principles in companies in which they invest. A 2006 report by the New York City Comptroller's Office found 88 US and Canadian corporations operating in Northern Ireland had agreed to independent monitoring of their compliance with the MacBride Principles.<ref>Office of the New York City Comptroller. "The MacBride Principles and Fair Employment Practices in Northern Ireland", 2006-11. Retrieved on 2006-11-14.</ref>

Candidates running for parliament in countries like the Dominican Republic visit the large expatriot communities from their countries living in New York City to solicit donations and absentee votes. New York City mayors, in turn, visit these countries to build closer political and economic ties between the city and governments abroad.

Four of the top five zip codes in the United States for political contributions are in Manhattan. The top zip code, 10021 on the Upper East Side, generated the most money for the 2004 presidential campaigns of both George W. Bush and John Kerry.<ref> "2006 Election Overview: Top Zip codes", 2005-05-16. Retrieved on 2006-07-19.</ref>

[edit] Suffrage

In the 1820s New York State removed all property qualifications for the right to vote. Voting rights were extended to all white males, regardless of whether they owned or rented property. In 1846 voters in New York State rejected a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would guarantee free blacks the same voting rights as whites. In 1870, however, five years after the Civil War, the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, giving blacks throughout the United States the same voting rights as whites.

Image:NYC Suffragists.jpg
Three suffragists casting votes in New York City around 1918.

New York City introduced a uniform ballot listing all candidates in 1880. To get on it, an office seeker would have to be nominated by a political party or submit nominating petitions, laying the groundwork for a system that persists to this day. In 1894 bipartisan control of elections was introduced, establishing a system in effect to this day. All election positions, from Board of Elections officials to poll watchers, must be divided equally between the two major parties.

The first voting machine, invented by Thomas Edison, was used in Lockport, New York in 1892. By the early 1920s, voting machines would be used for all general elections in New York City.

A 1915 referendum giving women the vote was defeated by city and state voters, but in 1920 the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was signed into law, guaranteeing women throughout the United States the right to vote.

In 1967, a suit brought under the Voting Rights Act passed by the U.S. Congress two years earlier lead to the creation of the majority black 12th Congressional District in Brooklyn. Previously, black voters had been divided among several predominantly white districts. In 1968, voters in the district elected Shirley Chisholm as the first black woman ever in the U.S. House of Representatives. Since then, congressional, state legislative and City Council districts have been drawn so as to ensure minority representation.

Non-citizens who have children in public schools were given the right to vote in elections for members of community school boards in 1969. Starting in 1975 election information was provided in Spanish as well as English, and in 1992 the City introduced ballots in Chinese.

[edit] Official seal and flag

The seal of the City of New York, adopted in an earlier form in 1686, bears the legend SIGILLVM CIVITATIS NOVI EBORACI, which means simply "The Seal of the City of New York." Eboracum was the Roman name for York, the titular seat of James II as Duke of York. The two supporters represent the unity between Native American and colonist, the four windmill sails recall the city's Dutch history as New Amsterdam, and the beavers and flour barrels the city's earliest trade goods (see History of New York City). The crest over the seal is the American eagle added after the American Revolution. "1625," at the bottom, is the date of the founding of the city.

The flag of New York City was adopted in 1915. Its blue, white, and orange bands represent the colors of the Dutch flag that flew over the city, then New Amsterdam, between the 1620s and 1660s. Located in the center is a blue print of the official Seal of New York City.

The Mayor's Office has its own official flag as well, which is the same design with an added five-pointed star (representing each of the five boroughs) in blue.

[edit] Sister cities

New York City has 12 sister cities. Limerick, Ireland is the latest to become a sister city of New York.<ref>Sister City Program of the City of New York. "NYC's Sister Cities", 2006.</ref> The year each relationship was formed is shown in parentheses below.

[edit] See also

[edit] Notes

<references />

New York City governmental institutions

Government · Mayor · City Council · Judiciary · Brooklyn Public Library · City University of New York · Economic Development Corporation · Department of Education · Fire Department (FDNY) · Lower Manhattan Development Corporation · Department of Parks and Recreation · New York Public Library · Police Department (NYPD) · Queens Borough Public Library

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