Most of us make our resolutions with the arrival of the New Year. Not so for government entities. For some reason, the annual "State of the …" messages are always delivered mid-January to mid-February. They are often both a summation of the past year and a forecast of future governmental priorities. Here are the latest examples:
State of the Union
Arguably the most important, it is actually mandated by Article II, Section 3 of the United States Constitution. The American Presidency Project hosts a most interesting web site on the Message, with not only the texts of the speeches, but word counts and lists of the opposition responders. The Clerk of the House of Representatives provides information on the Origins and Authorization of the State of the Union address.
State of the State
The Governor of the State of New York also makes an address, the State of the State. The 2013 address was delivered by Governor Andrew Cuomo on January 9, 2013.
State of the City
Lucky New Yorkers! We get two State of the City speeches, one from the Mayor and one from the Speaker of the New York City Council. But for some reason, Mayor Bloomberg has not yet delivered his State of the City address, the latest one being from 2012. Speaker Christine Quinn delivered her State of the City 2013 speech yesterday.
Update! Mayor Bloomberg delivered his 12th (and last) State of the City address on February 14th, at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that beginning beginning Thursday morning, there will be limited subway service on several routes, supplemented by a bus shuttle between Downtown Brooklyn and Midtown. There will be no subway service between 34th St in Midtown and Downtown Brooklyn. Earlier today, Local, Limited-Stop and Express Bus service began operating as close to a normal weekday schedule as possible. As was the case yesterday, bus service will operate on a fare-free basis today.
Hurricane Sandy has been called a "frankenstorm" because three different weather patterns converged, making a much larger storm. Details can be found at the National Hurricane Center's web site. Governmental response to a storm of this magnitude takes place at all levels of government:
City – the NYC Office of Emergency Management and their information brochure, Ready New York: Hurricanes and New York City
State – NYS Office of Emergency Management
Federal – Federal Emergency Management Agency
Images from the International Space Station showing Hurricane Sandy
The City of New York has produced several apps, which are available for download on its site, Official Apps from the City of New York. Two that I have on my smartphone are ABCEats, which lists the grades and inspection reports for all NYC restaurants, provided by the Department of Health, and NYC311, an app which allows you to report problems to various city agencies, such as fallen trees, water main breaks, or street potholes. The app will use your current location or you can type in an address, as well as upload photos. Citizen participation!
"Still, sparkling or tap?" asked the waiter at the restaurant last night. My automatic reply was "New York City tap water," but was that really the best choice? What about contamination with lead, benzene, giardia or e coli? How safe is NYC drinking water? Can all of those bottled water-toting tourists be on to something? After all, NYC water is one of the very few unfiltered drinking water systems for a large city in the U.S. So I consulted the annual New York City Drinking Water Supply and Quality Report. I discovered that the Department of Environmental Protection delivers about 1 billion gallons of water to NYC every day!
The water comes from a network of lakes and reservoirs in the Catskill and Delaware watersheds. Every year the city reports on the quality of the water, which is tested regularly. The report also details efforts by the city to acquire more land in the watersheds to protect the water supply and progress on the construction of Water Tunnel No.3, the largest public works project in New York City history. And most importantly, I discovered that the tap water that I drink every day meets the highest standards in the country. Drink up!
The Green Book, the New York City government directory since 1918, is now online! It includes information about every city and county agency within NYC, as well as some information about New York State agencies. A limited number of printed copies will still be available for sale in June.
At first glance the NYCityMap doesn't look very useful — and the navigation icons are different from what you are used to on Google Maps, bother! But a closer look reveals a wealth of information available at your fingertips. On the right side, under the heading "Show Additional Data on Map," there are check boxes to add boundaries and other data icons to the map. These become more useful as you zoom in on specific neighborhoods and areas of the city. Not sure where the area you want is located? Click on "Advanced Search," which allows you to search by address, ZIP code, community district and others. When I searched for my address, the map zoomed in on the area, with my building highlighted in red. On the right appeared a box with information about my building, including block and lot numbers, police precinct, owner (Trustees of Columbia), the year built, number of units, etc. There are also links to additional city information, such as building violations, building elevator information, the DOHMH Rat Information Portal (!), and tax and property records. I can also access neighborhood information and elected official information on the local, state and federal level.
The new CBS show "Person of Interest" is set in New York City and involves a "software genius who invented a program that uses pattern recognition to identify people about to be involved in violent crimes. Using state-of-the-art surveillance technology, the two work outside of the law, using Reese’s adept skills and Finch’s unlimited wealth to unravel the mystery of the "person of interest" and stop the crime before it happens. With infinite crimes to investigate, Reese and Finch find that the right person, with the right information, at the right time, can change everything." So true — however, in most TV shows and movies a character sits down at a computer terminal for 2 minute, types in a few search words, and retrieves tons of detailed information. It doesn’t really work that way.
But in last week’s episode, "Witness," Finch needs information about a particular building in Manhattan. For a brief moment on his computer screen, you see him accessing the NYC Buildings Information System (BIS) to get the information he needs. To use the BIS, just enter the borough and street address — you then retrieve a Property Profile Overview, with a wealth of information about that building, including zoning documents, certificates of occupancy, complaints and violations, elevator records, electrical applications, permits in process/issued, and much more. You can expand your search to adjacent buildings on the block, or search by Community Board to find out about new buildings, alterations and demolitions in your neighborhood.
Visit the NYC Department of Buildings to find this type of information, but please — no vigilante justice.
Looking for research on NYC elections and campaign finance information? Try these sites!
New York City Board of Elections website provides:
New York City Campaign Finance Board website provides:
- CFB Searchable Database that allows you to search by election cycle, candidate, contributor name, amount of contribution, date of contribution, contributor employer
- campaign finance summaries for citywide elections
- press tools, including calendar of scheduled board meetings, campaign finance law, enforcement information
How well are NYC’s agencies performing? Look to
Citywide Performance Reporting (CPR)
for a collection of performance measures from more than 40 city agencies. Search by agency or citywide theme to get performance measures data tables and pie charts. New data is added once a month.