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When City Limits magazine launched its Weekly update on November 13, 1995, its inky pages traveled via fax in a vastly different New York. Yet, with a modest $40,000 grant from the New York Foundation, an institution was born. (The same grant also seeded our sister organization the Center for an Urban Future—which was initially dubbed the City Limits Institute.) The inaugural month showcases plenty of stories that have since burgeoned into epics: the churning of homeless families through the Emergency Assistance Unit, service hotlines that only spoke English, and the inklings of a movement to challenge prison expansion and the Rockefeller drug laws. A few stories, however, are distinctly dated. A quick look at a select few:

Weekly #1, Nov. 13 1995: “Rangel Pushes Officials on Medicaid”
Outraged coverage documented a then-controversial proposal to block-grant Medicaid. The reduced lump payments to states have since become a standard of federal policy.

Weekly #2, Nov. 20, 1995: “New York’s Welfare Future”
The state considered a proposal to put a time limit on welfare benefits, a path later chosen by the feds. (Thanks to the state constitution, New York actually continues support for those who reach the five-year federal limit.) In an unrelated event announcement, organizers in DC foreshadowed the Billionaires for Bushenanigans with a slightly less savvy “Rally for the Really Rich.”

Weekly #3, Dec. 4, 1995: “Child Welfare: Where’s the Mayor?”
The city’s child welfare agency was reeling from the death of Elisa Izquierdo; the New York Times had just unearthed a memo from top officials ordering caseworkers to close two cases for every one opened. Today, the city’s caseload is nearing an all-time low, with reform efforts are focused on thoughtful improvements instead of emergency fixes. And when City Limits sought comment on a rash of budget cuts, it was Neil Kleiman–then a fledgling budget watchdog at City Project, a local policy org–who weighed in on the proposal to slash welfare and Medicaid. “Basically, this means the mayor is increasing savings through kicking people off of welfare,” said Kleiman, who took the helm of CUF the following year.

–Tracie McMillan

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