Universal prekindergarten supporters join New York City Council members in a trip up to Albany on Tuesday morning. Credit: @UPKNYC/Twitter
As buses full of council members and supporters made their way to the state capital in support of universal prekindergarten, the New York City Council released its top agenda items as state lawmakers prepared to draw up the new budget.
Few surprises were included in the list of 35 agenda items, mostly coinciding with priorities laid out by Mayor Bill de Blasio throughout his campaign and in the first few months of his administration.
The city's right to tax itself so as to pay for universal prekindergarten and after-school programming tops the list, as does de Blasio's promise last month to increase the city's minimum wage.
"I feel it is only appropriate that NYC should have the power to determine our own minimum wage and develop a sustainable funding stream for [universal pre-K] and after-school programing," said Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz in a statement.
The council also wants the state to allow the city to reinstate the commuter tax on those who work but don't live in the five boroughs, and for it to throw out Madison Square Garden's tax exemption.
Other issues the council wants the state to tackle are ones that Albany has been struggling with for years, and how much elected state officials, who are gearing up for primaries this summer, will be willing to give this year is unclear.
Last week, the Democrat-led Assembly passed a new version of state Dream Act to give financial aid to students whose parents are illegal aliens. It remains held up in a fractured Senate.
The Gender Expression Non-Discrimination and Women's Equality acts remain top items of concern for the municipal body, even as they've so far stalled upstate.
There might be some disagreement on one issue, not between the council and state but between the council and the mayor. While the two sides of City Hall are otherwise in lockstep on their priorities, election reform stands be one issue of contention.
While the de Blasio administration has come out in support of reforming the city's embattled Board of Elections, the council also wants to revive legislation to reform election runoffs, the most recent being the low-turnout public advocate runoff last fall that cost $13 million.
Two bills to institute instant-runoff voting — by which voters rank candidates in a primary — died before the new council convened on Jan. 1. Even so, de Blasio wasn't sold on the idea even after longtime ally Letitia James took over his role as public advocate.
"What I think is problematic about it is that you have a very different discussion when it comes down to two candidates," he told WYNC last November. "There's something about IRV that doesn’t fully represent the choices that people need to make in real time."