Trump’s impeachment, de Blasio homelessness plan, new subway cops

Donald Trump returns to the White House on December 19, 2019.
Donald Trump returns to the White House on December 19, 2019.
Donald Trump returns to the White House on December 19, 2019.

Trump’s impeachment, de Blasio homelessness plan, new subway cops

Rounding up the week’s political news.
December 20, 2019

It’s not often that the Joint Commission on Public Ethics meeting gets serenaded, but there was Kat Sullivan this week belting out a rousing JCOPE-themed rendition of the song “Let it Go” from the Disney hit “Frozen.” Sullivan has been critical of the state ethics body after it claimed she should have registered as a lobbyist over the money she spent in support of the Child Victims Act, and probed her for months before backing off. The meeting still made news even after the commissioners restored order. But first, impeachment.

Trump impeached

President Donald Trump became only the third president in United States history to be impeached. After an all-day session, House Democrats voted to approve two articles of impeachment, finding Trump had abused the power of his office and obstructed Congress. Each member of New York’s congressional delegation voted along party lines. The Senate trial over whether to remove the president from office is expected to begin early next year – that is, if House Speaker Nancy Pelosi doesn’t delay it.

De Blasio announces new homelessness plan

With just two years left in his tenure, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a five-year plan to end street homelessness – which means its success depends on his successor. The issue has plagued de Blasio throughout his time in office as homelessness levels remained high or even got worse. The mayor’s new $100 million-per-year plan – his third in four years – calls for building more hospitable shelters to get the estimated 1,800 chronically homeless who sleep outside off the streets. It also includes the city finding 1,000 apartments to provide permanent housing to those who need it. 

De Blasio delayed yeshiva report

If de Blasio’s new homelessness plan put renewed scrutiny on his past failures, the other big news involving him last week was worse. A probe from the city Department of Investigation concluded that his administration delayed the release of a long-anticipated report on yeshivas because it was engaging in “political horse-trading.” And the mayor was aware of what his officials were doing. De Blasio ordered the report four years ago to investigate whether students at ultra-Orthodox Jewish yeshivas were getting an adequate education. But officials put off publicly releasing it as Albany negotiated de Blasio’s continued control of city schools. The end result? Only two out of 28 schools officials investigated were meeting standards by teaching basic subjects like English or math.

JCOPE votes down self-assessment

As the state Joint Commission on Public Ethics grapples with scrutiny regarding an alleged leak and calls for its dissolution, it voted not to perform a self-assessment of its own operations or a review of its inspector general’s office. The move follows reports that someone leaked how members voted on an issue to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, although such information is meant to remain private. The probe into the allegation by the inspector general also drew criticism because it did not include interviews with either official at the center of the controversy – Cuomo and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. 

500 new subway cops approved

A fleet of 500 new police officers is on its way to the New York City subways. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s board approved the controversial move as part of its $17 billion 2020 budget. Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed expanding the force last month to increase fare evasion enforcement and to address what he called a “dramatic increase in crime” in the subway system. Crime in the city remains at record lows overall, despite a slight uptick in subway crimes recently. The new cops will cost the MTA about $250 million over four years and will not be part of the New York Police Department, which already has 2,500 transit officers patrolling the system.

Another GOP senator exits

Another week, another Republican state senator jumps ship. This time, state Sen. Richard Funke announced that he would not seek reelection in 2020. His decision makes him the ninth Senate Republican to leave, decline reelection or seek a different office this year after Democrats gained a sizeable majority in the chamber. The retirements may spread the limited resources of the state GOP even thinner as the party attempts to defend not just incumbents, but also vulnerable open seats.

Green Light law takes effect

Undocumented immigrants can officially get driver’s licenses in New York now that the state’s Green Light law has gone into effect. After the state successfully fended off multiple lawsuits seeking to strike down the law, people turned out in droves on the first day that they could receive or apply for their licenses. Department of Motor Vehicles offices in New York City had lines several blocks long.

Rebecca C. Lewis
is deputy state politics reporter at City & State.