AIDS Activists Sue To Stop Budget Cuts

The city budget fight is headed to a new venue: U.S. District Court. On Tuesday veteran AIDS activists at HousingWorks filed a motion for a restraining order to halt Mayor Bloomberg’s plans to slash funding for the city’s AIDS services agency. Justice Cheryl Pollak of the Eastern District will hear arguments in the case Thursday morning. Bloomberg’s budget – currently in the home stretch of negotiation with the City Council – calls for a $10 million cut to the HIV/AIDS Services Administration, which would translate to 248 fewer case workers for very poor, very sick people who get help with housing, food and medical care through HASA. “Those benefits save lives,” Leroy Rose, a HousingWorks client who has AIDS and receives HASA benefits said in a statement.

In This Fight, Public Advocate Is The Underdog

When the New York Times delivered its all-important endorsement to then-City Councilman Bill de Blasio in last year’s race for public advocate, the paper noted that the winner’s chief task would be “demonstrating whether this position truly serves New Yorkers.” If the subtext wasn’t clear then, it was brought into sharp focus when the mayor’s charter revision commission announced that its agenda for this year would include the possible elimination of the public advocate position. A little-understood office that was itself created in a 1993 charter revision (out of the wreckage of the title of City Council president, which had been stripped of most of its power by a Supreme Court ruling), the public advocate is supposed to act as an independently elected “ombudsman” to keep watch over the mayor and City Council. That means the future of the office could rest in the hands of de Blasio, the former councilmember, federal housing official, and Hillary Clinton campaign manager who won the job after a tight four-way primary race and subsequent runoff against former public advocate Mark Green last fall. As chair of the Council’s General Welfare Committee, de Blasio had been a vocal critic of many of Mayor Bloomberg’s policies, particularly his refusal to allow able-bodied single adults to receive food stamps unless they’re working, and what de Blasio considered an insufficiently robust approach to reducing poverty.

City Council Endorses School Turnaround Zone

The New York City Council passed a resolution this week unanimously endorsing the proposed School Turnaround Zone (STZ), a strategy designed to help struggling schools improve their performance and avoid closure. Developed by the parent-led Coalition for Educational Justice, the STZ would integrate school-improvement strategies with strong leadership, giving schools three years ‘in the zone’ to demonstrate progress.The STZ also has the support of Council speaker Christine Quinn and Public Advocate Bill DeBlasio. But the decision whether to adopt it ultimately rests with the Department of Education (DOE), which is independent of the City Council.If adopted, the STZ would represent a significant departure from the DOE’s current approach to struggling schools. To date, the DOE has closed 91 schools and is attempting to obtain court approval to shutter 19 more. Schools Chancellor Joel Klein has met with education advocates to discuss the STZ proposal, and has referred the matter to Deputy Chancellor Marc Sternberg, says Megan Hester, spokesperson for the Council for Educational Justice.DOE spokesman Jack Zarin-Rosenfeld would not comment directly on the Council’s resolution.