Transcript: Mayor de Blasio Announces Bold New Vision for the City's M/WBE Program

September 28, 2016

Mayor Bill de Blasio: Celeste, I want to tell you – first of all, thank God you were audacious. Thank God you didn't let anyone tell you no, and you kept fighting because look at the amazing business you've built. We're very proud of you.

[Applause]

And Paul, I love a story that begins with a beat-up old car. You turned that into a real thriving business. I want to congratulate your persistence – both of you, your persistence and your belief that you could succeed and help so many other people succeed at the same time.

This is what New York City is all about. Let's thank both of them.

[Applause]

These are inspiring stories – the reminder of why we do this work, of why we've changed the rules of the game to create fairness, to create equity because the game hasn't been fair. Let's be real about this. It just hasn't been fair – decades and decades of history, of people being excluded, people who just wanted to do a good job. They just wanted to have a chance. And too many times, as Celeste said so powerfully, they were just told no, didn't matter how smart they were, didn't matter how good they were, they were told no.

And that was tolerated for many, many years. And tolerated by the government which is not acceptable because government is supposed to be the place that rights the wrongs. So, when I think of minority and women-owned business, I think of our neighborhoods, I think of small businesses that are the life blood of our neighborhoods, I think about people who need opportunity finding a job with a business in their community. I think about people not being turned away who want to work hard because the person hiring them understands them and wants to give them a chance. Let's face it.

If you give empowerment, opportunity, resources to women and people of color, guess what? They're going to hire women and people of color, and give them a chance.

[Applause]

And further, I like anytime our hard-earned taxpayer money can stay in New York City and recycle in our economy and stay in our neighborhoods. Look, we're going to work with every kind of company, obviously. We want great companies of all people, all backgrounds to help us. Sometimes there's a great company out of town that's the best one to do a job. That's great. But whenever we can maximize the chance that we invest in New York City companies, that the same work can be done just as well by a company here in the five boroughs – we not only get the work done for the people, we get people hired in New York City. Those dollars stay in our neighborhoods. It is a double virtue.

That's why today we dedicate ourselves to taking the M/WBE efforts much, much farther. This is something we have to do for our neighborhoods. This is something we have to do for fairness and equality. This is something we have to do for job creation. It is a much better way, on behalf of the taxpayers, to spend their money. So, we're going to take this to the next level.

Now, I want to thank all of the folks who have joined us. I want to name, first of all, some of the members of the administration. They have done – you're going to hear from some but some of the ones also here who have been key contributors to this effort.

Gregg Bishop was just called out a moment ago – normally the tallest man in the room but not today. Thank you.

[Applause]

But Gregg, thank you for the extraordinary work you've done in Small Business Services. And we're going to talk about how many people, how many more firms have been certified by Gregg and his team.

Michael Owh, the Commissioner of MOCS – Mayor's Office of Contract Service – also a leader in this effort. Michael, thank you.

[Applause]

A new member of the team – really thrilled to have him onboard – our Senior Advisor from M/WBE issues, Jonnel Doris. Jonnel Doris, thank you.

[Applause]

The elected officials who are here have been very, very focused, very adamant, and very constructive in helping us to deepen this initiative. It has been something – I have to say to all the elected officials here – I have heard your voices loud and clear that this is a high priority for you and the people you represent. I want you to know that we have added a lot of what you've talked to us about into this new vision, and we need your partnership to make this vision a reality.

It's – you're going to hear a lot of stuff that's very powerful in my view and real progress but it all matters where the rubber hits the road. And so, getting people certified, getting contracts to firms that deserve them takes a lot of reaching out, a lot of telling people, yes. You heard too many no's. We want to say yes to people. And elected officials are a key part of reaching out across a whole range of communities and giving people opportunities. So, I want to name them and I want to thank them.

From the State Assembly – Assemblymember Walter Mosley, Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon, Assemblymember Alicia Hyndman, Assemblymember Luis Sepulveda, Assemblymember Nick Perry.

From the City Council – and you're going to hear again, some other people are going to speak in a moment – Councilmember Inez Dickens, and Councilmember Laurie Cumbo, Councilmember Raphael Espinal.

And while I'm at it, I just want to thank our host. I love talking about the amazing things happening in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

I want to thank the CEO, David Ehrenberg; and the Chair of the Board, Hank Gutman for everything they're doing. Let's celebrate everyone in the Navy Yard and thank them.

[Applause]

So, this will make our city stronger – there's no question in my mind because there are so many firms ready, willing, and able to do great work, and we want to tap into that energy.

By the way, I like – I like the hunger and the focus and the determination that comes with companies that haven't had a fair shot and work so hard. When they get that fair shot, you see great work. You see focused, extraordinary work. We're going to be tapping into that by giving people real opportunity.

Now, let's remember that this city was built by people of many, many backgrounds but so much of this city was literally built brick-by-brick by people of color, by women, people whose names we'll never hear in the history books – untold stories about people who were heroes because they made this city great.

And they believed in the American dream, and they lived it out. Maybe they didn't get celebrated for it but they lived it out. They made it real in their lives. But when you think about the actual work that needs to happen every single day, the actual building that we need to do in this city going forward – well, if history was any indication, so many people that were ready, willing, and able would just continue to be left out. That is the situation we found ourselves in.

People, really for the most of 20 years before this administration began, did not get the opportunity they deserved. Government was simply not doing enough. It's just that plain.

We're going to correct that. We have a simple vision to distribute opportunity fair and wide – to open the door wide for everyone who is ready to do this important work, to break down the barriers, to create fairness.

Now, here are the facts – we have already awarded more M/WBE contracts than ever in the history of New York City government. Fiscal Year '15 – M/WBEs were awarded eight percent of all contract dollars. Fiscal Year'16 – that doubled – almost doubled to a record 14 percent.

Today, we are dedicated to going much farther, and that's what we're here to announce. We have only just begun.

Today, we will set an ambitious goal for the City of New York – a goal of 30 percent.

[Applause]

And I want to make that plain – 30 percent of City government contracts will be available to M/WBEs by 2021.

[Applause]

This is an aggressive timeline over the next five years to go from where we are today, the 14 percent we are at today to 30 percent by 2021. It is an aggressive timeline. It is a timeline we have worked on very, very intensely and we are committed to achieving it and we need your help to achieve it. And this will be a sea change and 30 percent is our commitment and we are ready to go farther with your help. Now, I want to tell you this will apply to all mayoral agencies including the Department of Education and in addition the Economic Development Corporation and the School Construction Authority.

And I think you all have heard the famous phrase, 'If you want to get something done, ask a busy person.' So there is a busy person in my administration. I asked him to move mountains and achieve our pre-K vision in a timeline that many experts thought impossible. I bragged about the fact that he got us to 68,500 kids last year. He has, as of this morning, got us to over 71,000 kids in pre-K in New York City. Congratulations –

[Applause]

He has doubled the number of middle school kids in afterschool programs to now over 100,000 and he is playing a crucial leadership role in making our new mental health strategy Thrive a reality. And so I am pleased to announce that the leadership of our M/WBE efforts will now be in the hands of Deputy Mayor Richard Buery.

[Applause]

And Richard knows a lot and he's proven it about reaching across all agencies, every part of the government and making agencies achieve their goals. I'd like to pass the ball to someone who's proven they can score. And I like to see someone who knows how to cut through the red tape and get everyone on the same page. Richard has proven that time and time again.

And on top of Richard's leadership, we will be creating for the first time ever the Mayor's Office of Minority and Women Business Enterprises.

[Applause]

And that office will be led by a man who has already achieved a lot. I mentioned it before. He had done great work with the State of New York, proven that he could get things done in terms of moving the ball on M/WBE issues. He brings a wealth of experience. He may look a little young but he's very wise – our new director of the Mayor's Office of Minority and Women Business Enterprises will be Jonnel Doris. 

[Applause]

Public Advocate Tish James: Preacher. Preacher. Reverend Dorris, thank you.  

Jonnel Doris: [Inaudible]

Mayor: Reverend, okay. I told you he was wise.

Public Advocate James: Yes.

Mayor: I said the 30 percent goal is ambitious but we believe in it. We will hold ourselves accountable to it. We are making this a very public pledge with a clear timeline because we think it's the right thing to do and we think by holding ourselves accountable to a public pledge, it's the best way to get things done. That new office we are creating will be the focal point and will hold all agencies accountable. Now we are going to also do some of the things that people have talked about, would make this work go better. We are going to break contracts into smaller pieces so that smaller M/WBEs can compete for them. Who've been shut out before. 

[Applause]

On certification, which is the gateway to all opportunity – if you're not certified, you can't participate in the program where we already set an ambitious path and we now have about 4,500 certified M/WBEs in New York City. That is a 25 percent increase since I came into office but, this new team working with Gregg Bishop wanted to go a lot farther so we are going to double that number to 9,000 certified firms by 2019.

[Applause]

We are going to expand our loan initiatives. We will make loans available that are capped at three percent interest.

[Applause]

And we want to do a lot more to achieve our overall goal but here is where we need help and I want to ask everyone in this room to be a part of this effort. I believe that the folks gathered here today want to see these changes but now I need you to join us in action in Albany. A lot of our colleagues sitting here at the table behind me have been working very, very hard for changes in state law that would actually allow us to do the things we need to do to give bigger contracts and reach more firms. Right now state law actually stands in the way of us reaching the kind of goals we need to. That has to change. We have to simplify the rules. We need flexibility so we can reach more firms. I think the power of everyone in this room including the great members of the Assembly who are present is what will get us over the finish line in the next legislative session. I want to particularly thank Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte and Senator James Sanders who are sponsoring the bill that would make the change we need.

[Applause]

Further, City Council has stepped up and I want to thank all the members of City Council who will be signing legislation later today. New M/WBE legislation that will help us go farther will bring more transparency and accountability to contracting. And that is another step forward; the Council has always been true allies. Let's give another round of applause to all of the Councilmembers.

Now I want to conclude, before you hear from my colleagues by reminding people I often talk about the fact that over the years, I sat in too many rooms where people with a straight face and a somber tone came to the question of hiring. They would say very earnestly we wish we could hire more women, we wish we could hire more people of color. If only – "if only there were qualified applicants." This is what's called the big lie, there's always been qualified applicants down through history. There has never been a lack of talent among women and people of color – ever. And I am proud of the fact when it comes to leadership in our administration; we have been able to show that over and over and over again. And I want to say in particular, a tip of the cap to the women in the room that I am proud to be part of an administration – I think now the senior leadership roles of our administration are 57 percent women if I am correct and seems to be working just fine.

[Applause] 

So you will hear sometimes the parallel critique and I think it's a disingenuous one – offer when it comes to companies, 'Oh we'd love to have more M/WBEs involved, if only we could find qualified companies.' Again, I don't think there is any lack of qualified companies. Sometimes there may be a company that isn't certified yet. That's true, we have to do better at that, but there is no lack of qualified companies. So just to put a point on – you can clap for that though, you can clap.

[Applause]

Look around you. I hope everyone saw this beautiful building coming in. Look around you, at this lovely place. This building was refurbished. And the company that was involved did a great job, it's plain to see. This building was achieved with 47 percent M/WBE contract.

[Applause]

So we wanted you to be someplace where you could see the future and you could see how bright it is and that's why we chose this place.

We believe in fairness and opportunity for all. That's what this administration is dedicated to and that's why we are making these changes. A few words in Spanish –

[Mayor speaks in Spanish]

With that, the man who is going to lead the charge – Deputy Mayor Richard Buery.

Deputy Mayor Richard Buery: I am so excited to be here today to be a part of an initiative that plays such a critical role in the economic life of our city. It's an initiative that I really believe goes to the heart of the tale of two cities that the man to the left of me has spent his life fighting against. And it's my job – in leading our efforts in M/WBE, my top priority is to build off of the incredible successes that the Mayor has just described, including the record number of dollars that have gone to M/WBEs in City contracting this year.

As the Mayor said, minority- and women-owned businesses have always been essential to the life of the city. Our city is always strongest when we lead with our diversity. But City leadership has not always done as much as it could to acknowledge those contributions or indeed to bolster them. The result is that the city has not had the full benefit of the talent, the creativity, the ingenuity, the expertise that our minority- and women-owned benefits have to offer.

So today's renewed commitment to minority and women business owners is about much more than helping them get a foot in the door. It's about disrupting a cycle of inequity in City procurements. And today, we're pleased to reach out our hands and to say, we're happy to do business with you. The Mayor said our 30 percent goal is an ambitious one. But the thing I love about Mayor de Blasio is that when it comes to building a more equitable city, he does not believe in half measures.

I've seen what's possible when you take a bold vision, you pair it with a concrete action plan, and you convene partners across City government to make it happen. When we set out to establish free, high-quality, full-day pre-K for all four-year-olds in the city, we were met with tremendous skepticism. But under Mayor de Blasio's leadership, and with unprecedented coordination across City agencies, you see that we've gone from the idea of universal pre-K to the reality of universal pre-K. And we are committed to doing the exact same thing for minority- and women-owned business enterprises.

You heard about the new Office of M/WBE. It will be a one-stop shop for M/WBEs to connect with contracting opportunities at various City agencies, increasing accessibility for businesses who want to do work with the City. We're going to work closely with the Mayor's Office of Contract Services, and under the inspired leadership of my friend, Michael Owh, to hold City agencies and contractors accountable for achieving these goals. As the Mayor said, you'll be increasing access to capital with our new [inaudible] fund capped at three percent. We're going to support Commissioner Bishop and the efforts of SBS to double the number of certified contractors. We're going to do that by streamlining the process, by implementing strategic marketing and targeted outreach in underrepresented industries and sectors, and by improving our process to make it easier and accurate, while ensuring that we are certifying the businesses that deserve to be certified.

And again, I have to say, I'm so lucky to be able to meet with a leader as experienced as Jonnel Doris in this role, leading the day-to-day work of the office and advising us on best practices. This is a man who has done it before. He knows what he's talking about. He knows how to get the job done. And I'm so honored and excited to be working with him to achieve these results.

Over the past two years, I've learned that we are most successful when we bring government to the people. And we are committed to doing that same thing today, by working with businesses, with advocates, with leaders, the men and women on our advisory council to make sure that we achieve this audacious goal. I'm looking forward to working with you and everyone in this room to achieving a new era in equal opportunity in business for New York City's minority-owned – minority- and women-owned business.

Thank you very much.

[Applause]

Mayor: Thank you. I want to just do an acknowledgment. I did not realize we have a Senator in the house too – Senator Velmanette Montgomery. Thank you so much for your support.

[Applause]

Mayor: And we will need your help getting this important legislation through the State Senate. We thank you. And now the sponsor on the Assembly-side of the legislation that we really require to move these goals forward. It's time for fairness in this State legislation – the Chair of the Oversight of M/WBE Subcommittee of the New York State Assembly, Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte.

[Applause]

[...]

Mayor: Rodneyse, that was like the most peaceful transfer of power that ever happened. I was like, wow, that's cool. Well, congratulations.

[Laughter]

[Applause]

[...]

Mayor: Thank you so much Rodneyse, I appreciate that very much. I'm not going to make any further jokes about looking up to Robert Cornegy.

[Laughter]

But I do want to say that Robert has been a stalwart, working on these issues in the Council. As you know – as I said, the Council is moving on legislation that will be signed today, but also we've – this has been painstaking work to figure out how we can reach much higher goals. Robert has been a crucial part of the process with us every step of the way; so the Chair of the Committee on Small Businesses, City Council – Councilmember Robert Cornegy.

[Applause]

[…]

Finally, I want you to hear from our Public Advocate. She has focused on the issues of empowerment of M/WBEs for many years and has pushed us as a Public Advocate should and as she does with such energy. And that has helped us to get to a better place – Public Advocate Tish James.

[Applause]

[…]

Mayor: I want to note for the record that Tish James says the word 'huge' the same as her fellow Brooklynite Bernie Sanders.

[Laughter]

For the record.

Public Advocate James: Because I'm a Brooklynite.

Mayor: Yes. It's a point of pride.

Public Advocate James: Yes.

Mayor: It's a point of pride – huge. The changes were huge.

[Laughter]

Okay. We're going to take questions on this topic and then we will take questions on other topics.

Fire away. Yes?

Question: I was just seeking some clarity. There – in the release it says – is the 30 percent talking about the number contracts or the dollar amount? They are both stated in here. And then, in terms of the – when you were giving comparative figures for how things stand now, is that currently 14 percent of contracts are for M/WBEs or is 14 percent of the dollar amount the City spends?

Deputy Mayor Buery: Dollars.

Question: In both cases [inaudible] dollars?

Deputy Mayor Buery: Yes.

Question: Okay. And then a follow up, last week the City Comptroller, in a speech, was quite critical of where the City's M/WBE program stands currently. He said he gave it a D. And I am wondering if this rollout today has anything to do with pressure that he's been putting.

Mayor: We've been working on this for a long, long time. And the changes that we made in the certification process that you heard yielded very powerful results; and the higher levels of contracting then anytime in the history of New York City. Those predate anybody's press conference or report. That – those statements he made were misleading; you know, not looking at the totality of what we are doing. And you know, oversight is great but people should be careful not to just want to criticize or find numbers that support a critique if they are honestly trying to figure out what is working and not working. So, we clearly believe we have made progress. We clearly believe there is a lot more to do. That's why we have set a very high goal. Like a lot of other things we've done we made sure that when we were ready to come out with a goal that we really believed we could live with it and achieve it. And it wasn't just talk. So, that's how we've done it this way.

In the back?

Question: Is this new vision influenced by the fact that the Governor has already set this 30 percent goal – a goal he set back in 2014. It's also the fact that they have [inaudible] overseeing their M/WBE program.

Mayor: We have always appreciated the fact that the State of New York had high goals and had the tools to achieve it. So, if there is something that connects us to the State is that we'd like to have the same tools they have. We're thrilled that they have a high goal. We think that's – I certainly think that is great for the City of New York and the State of New York. But we want the tools to do that too. And so it only stands to reason that the State should join us in allowing us to go farther and we obviously – we're talking about a lot of what we do here. You know, we're talking about the Department of Education, our single biggest agency; SCA, EDC and all the other mayoral agencies, which combine to do a huge amount of contracting. The State does a lot of important things for sure, but the City has a vast contracting ability that needs to be in this game and needs to have the tools to reach a lot farther. So, we're certainly look at that State goal with admiration. We just want our chance to do it too.

Question: Just a follow up. So, one concern that advocates [inaudible] is had that – Maya Wiley, she was wearing too many hats [inaudible]she had a lot of different tasks on her plate, so she couldn't really focus on the M/WBE issue exclusively. Will Deputy Mayor Buery be dealing exclusively with M/WBEs?

Mayor: Now, look, obviously Richard Buery has a lot of things he has to do too, but again, I'm very comfortable with this construct. We're going to have a new office that we did not have before, which is actually something that Maya came to feel was necessary and Richard certainly agreed. We need that focused energy. We need a director specifically for that. Jonnel brings a wealth of experience. So, that is something where, you know, I think a lot of the concerns were fair. We needed to build up that capacity. But I also have said – going way back years and years, I have said the same thing and I believe it – we need a leader in the administration who has the reach across the administration and has the constant connection to me so that we can order what we need to order and it is something we're talking about on an constant basis. And we did that when Maya was my Counsel. We're going to do that, obviously, with Richard as one of our four deputy mayors. I think that is the only way to actually get things done in this world. I have been in government for a long time; if you have someone in the center of the operation that is the best way to get things done. Richard has proven his ability to get things done. And the previous effort also proved that it could move the needle substantially because the number of certifications went up higher than ever before and the number of contracts went up higher than ever before. So, I think the previous model got us going in a good direction. This one will take us a lot farther.

Question: What is involved with the creation of a new office specifically for this? Do you have a new staff, goals? What would it cost, if there is any cost associated?

Mayor: We're obviously just starting now and we have a director in Jonnel, but you can speak to the other issues.

Deputy Mayor Buery: Yeah, briefly. So, Jonnel will be hiring a team. We'll have an office in City Hall. Again, the Office of M/WBEs will be bringing on staff to lead this work. And we're also building capacity in the key agencies that lead the program; most specifically MOCS and SBS because those agencies also need additional capacity to drive the increase in certifications; to provide additional training, to hold agencies accountable, to make sure that we have contracting practices that allow us to reach our goal. So, we're making a variety of investments in the City's capacity to lead this work including the creation of a new office and we're beginning to hire staff soon.

Question: Is that something that you already – is there money already built into the budget to do that or would you have to add that to the –

Mayor: We can get started, obviously, with the existing budget. But this is something that is part of the new budget process, which is really about to begin that we'll account for, for the long term. So, we certainly can – we have enough to get going and then we'll figure out the longer term.

Question: Can I just ask – I mean, what is your strategy to reach this goal of 30 percent? I mean, isn't it that [inaudible]. You have to go to the lowest bidder. So, are you just trying to make sure that people are aware these contracts are here and they are certified? How do you think you're going to be able to do this?

Mayor: Well, let me start with sort of some broad concepts and then Richard can add to it or Jonnel can add to it. The first – to reach this goal, I want to be very, very plain, to reach this goal we need a State law change, okay. We can do a lot with our current reality –

[Applause]

But we want to reach this goal. And it makes no sense to hold us back from being able to reach as many companies as are ready to do the work. We've got lots of companies – great companies ready. We are artificially held back, so we've got to change that. We also believe that a lot of what you've heard today – these were policy changes that were needed. You've – it's quite clear for 20 years there was not substantial progress. We've had to in effect de-program that – figure out each and every pressure point and change that had to be made. So, you know the loan program for example; the higher level of certifications, piece by piece by piece. So, there's a lot we can do with our own tools. But to get to the number we should get to, which is 30 percent; we need the State law changed. You can speak to –

Deputy Mayor Buery: Let me try to answer the question. Also, any of my colleagues can join in if I'm missing important parts. I look at it as the supply side of the equation and demand side of the equation, alright. So, the supply side for the equation is making sure that M/WBEs are in a positon to bid effectively on contracts. So, that is about providing technical assistance; training, making sure that they are certified, making sure they have access to capital, making sure they have information. So, we're going to be working very, very hard to unleash the power – I mean look around this room – unleash the power of the businesses in this room and the businesses outside of the room that they are able to compete. But we also have to affect the demand side of the equation. That means working with all of our agencies to make sure that they are contracting processes are changing, the [inaudible] process had changed. Right, that goes to part of what the Public Advocate was speaking about. And so, part of what we're doing is we're building our capacity to work with City agencies to change – and we can go into more detail down the road if we develop them – but changing the way that our City agencies move forward. And then, like the Mayor said, we need additional tools because part of what inhibits us from doing that work are rules that make it hard for us to have the kind of flexibility we need. So, just for example – I think Assemblywoman Bichotte just mentioned this earlier – increasing the limit to $200,000 for contracts where the City has greater discretion to provide contracting opportunity without going through a full bidding process. The rule that flexibility of State has that the City does not have; increasing our ability to utilize best-value contracts where we can look at issues in addition to the lowest price point – look at the capacity of a contractor, look at its M/WBE certification, look at other practices. So, there are things that we do to increase our ability to drive more contracts and there are things we can do to make sure that the amazing minority/women owned businesses in our City have the ability to compete for those contracts.

Mayor: Yes?

Question: Is my understanding right? It sounds like you guys want to relax a requirement to take the lowest responsible bidder. Is that correct?

Mayor: I want to be careful about that concept – this is – because I think sometimes – not saying this about you personally – I'm saying, I think sometimes the notion the different goals we have in government gets described the wrong way. We need to do the best we can in terms of the effective the bidder; the bidder who is going to do a great job for us; keeping cost down and also achieving other goals simultaneously. As I said, when you hire M/WBEs you frequently get that money into our communities in this city, not elsewhere. So that has a very positive impact. You obviously address one of the most central issues of our society which is unfairness, lack of equality. So, I am a believer that you have to balance all the factors in the equation. The State of New York gives itself the flexibility to strike that balance. We just want the same thing the State of New York gives itself – what is good for the goose is good for the gander. We want the same flexibility to achieve multiple goals simultaneously.

Deputy Mayor Buery: You know I want to add one thing. I think the phrase best value is important. The goal is to get the contract that offers the City the best value. Clearly, the lowest price point is a critical component of the best value, but it's not the only component of the best value. Having businesses that employ local New Yorkers, having businesses that have fair labor practices, having businesses that reflect the diversity and talent of the City and have overcome the real serious institutional racism barrier that can stand in the way of participation. These also add to the best value of our contracting. So, we want a contract process that really offers the City the best result and is not so narrow looking at only one price point.

[Applause]

Question: Mayor, you're talking about a change in the State law to allow you to do something that the State already does. So, if you seem to be anticipating some level of difficulty with this in Albany – what would the opposition [inaudible]?

Mayor: Without acting like an expert on this debate, there are others here who know more about the back and forth in Albany, obviously. I think it is safe to say that the Republican State Senate had not been overly friendly to empowerment efforts and efforts to address greater equality for minority and women owned businesses. But, you know, hope springs eternal and I think the growing debate in this country and this City about fairness will inform this discussion.

Question: They haven't been overly friendly to you either.

Mayor:  What?

[Laughter]

Jillian, this is the first I am hearing of this.

[Laughter]

Question: Do you think could factor into the difficulty?

Mayor: No, I don't think that has anything to do with it. I literally don't – that's a whole different discussion. I literally don't think it does. I think it is an ideological matter. And again, Rodneyse and others can speak more eloquently than me because they are in the middle of it. I think there's been a resistance on the part of Republican State Senate to providing the tools that will allow us to create greater equality. Rodneyse, do you want to?

New York State Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte: Yes, I agree. It definitely predates Mayor de Blasio. I mean, it's just simple there is still a level of racism and injustices and just a view of helping minority and women business owned enterprise to some is like a handout. So, it's a continuous battle. We have, I think, our class had introduced over 50 bills on M/WBEs and maybe one or two were even allowed to be introduced to the floor of the Senate. So, it's just a battle and it's just a racial injustice that is continuous in our State legislation. Unfortunately, the gender and inequality and all those other issues that go along with providing equitable social justice.

Mayor: Okay, who else?

Yes?

Question: Just one further clarification of the State law. It sounds like – would it allow you to factor in a firm's status as M/WBE into the rewarding of contracts where now that's currently not permitted?

Deputy Mayor Buery: That's right, we give it greater flexibility to consider elements that we are, in many cases, prohibited from considering now.

Mayor: Any other questions on this topic. Please?

Question: How would you quantify that – did you come with a formula where folks who are M/WBEs would get a certain number of points?

Deputy Mayor Buery: It's not a question of establishing a quota or a hard limit. This is about offering the City greater flexibility to consider a totality of circumstances in awarding contracts.

Question: But what effort would you use to do that?

Deputy Mayor Buery: Well again, we are looking for the exact same tools that the State uses in issuing its awards. So, it ranges from a variety of tools from greater discretion on the size of contracts of which we can use awards. So, there is a variety for tools that we're looking foe. So, it's not one check. It's a number of things that we are looking to add to our –

Mayor: I think what would be helpful – I think this is an important question. What would be helpful is if afterwards we can do a fact sheet to lay out exactly how the State process works and the difference between the State process and our process so you can see. Because, obviously, everyday – and again, I'm very happy the State has a high goal and they have the tools to reach it and so you should be able to see how that works and what the differences between that and what we have right now.

Question: [Inaudible]

Mayor: We're doing media questions only, just so people – media questions only. Appreciate your enthusiasm though.

[Laughter]

Question: If your effort to change the State law is not successful or looks like it's going to take a longer time frame than you're laying out here in terms of your goal – I mean do you have any sort of other goal that you're setting without that law change that you think is reasonable or realistic in terms of breaking that 14 percent figure?

Mayor: I'm a big believer in plan A. So, in life sometimes you need a plan B, but right now, I believe we should stick to plan A. We're offering a very clear, strong vision. I think that will affect the debate and the discussion. I think our nation is changing rapidly. Our city is changing rapidly. We used to not have the discussion we needed to have in this city. And I hope I contributed with talking about the tale of two cities. I certainly think Secretary Clinton contributed the other night when on the presidential debate stage, she talked about institutional racism. That's not something I remember previously.

[Applause]

So I think you're seeing big structural changes in government, in politics. And things that were not possible a year or two ago are becoming possible. So I don't believe it's right to say that this was the same exact discussion about pre-K. I remember vividly on October 4, 2012 right after I made the speech on pre-K, a number of folks in the media asked a perfectly fair question – well, what if? And I said, I don't deal in the what if. I've got to have a vision – to stick to that vision. And if we can't achieve that vision, we'll be very open about what it means. But I think we're going to eventually win this battle. And there's a lot of energy in this room to help us win this battle. And if we win the battle, we can reach the 30 percent goal.

Anything else on this topic? Going once? Twice?

Okay, other topics. Melissa.

Question: Mr. Mayor, was – in your opinion, was the Zymere Perkins case –

Mayor: That was what now?

Question: Zymere Perkins case – the six-year-old boy in Harlem who died on Monday – was his case given the added level of investigative scrutiny that ACS has ordered for cases where there are multiple [inaudible] reports of maltreatment.

Mayor: I want to say, Melissa, I'm very concerned about this case. And I want to know what happened here. It is unacceptable that this young man was lost. And it's not right to prejudge. There is a very thorough investigation that's begun. What I think I can safely say is that there were warning signs, they were clearly looked at by a variety of agencies – how that didn't lead to a different outcome is what I don't understand. And I find it an unacceptable outcome. And I'm going to demand answers from everyone involved. And if we have to make changes as a result in our approach, we will. At least I can say very clearly, I know this was on the radar screen. But I don't like what happened here one bit. I don't accept it.

Question: Can I follow up?

Mayor: Please.

Question: Do you have any concerns about a philosophical – what some people in this world of child welfare see as a philosophical shift over at ACS – fewer children coming into foster care – not that we would ever want a child to go into foster care unnecessarily, but fewer children coming in and also, this less investigative, more collaborative approach to families?

Mayor: It's an excellent question, and I appreciate it. And you know – you know I've talked to you about this for many years – that I spent many years working on these issues in the City Council. Here is the core of this challenge. I have two kids and whenever I look at one of these situations, I see a child lost, I think about my own children. But I also think from the perspective of parent – that the vast majority of parents are trying to make it work, they're trying to support their kids. And I can only imagine what it would feel like to have your children taken away from you.

So I fall down on the level of when in doubt, the City needs to intervene. But I will say very clearly – that has to be a very careful decision. And there are courts involved in these decisions. And the courts have their own approaches – each judge has their own approach. So, I don't think it's fair to say we wouldn't put a child into foster care if we thought it was the right thing. I think there's been a general improvement over years, and previous administrations deserve credit as well – improvement in how we do our child welfare work, our protective work, improvement in finding ways to support families. You know all about the kinds of services we provided to families to try and help them get it together rather than taking a child away and putting them into foster care. A lot of that has worked.

But the question in my mind is – when we lose a child – first of all I don't accept the loss of any child. I want to be very, very clear about that. I think every single situation – I asked the question, was there anything more that could have been done? Occasionally, there's no warning signs whatsoever. Occasionally, there's no way anyone could have known until it's too late. But many times, there are warnings. And the question is – what do we do with those warnings? And if there's a problem with the law, let's change the law. If there's a problem in the way agencies communicate, let's change that. You remember early in my administration the Myls Dobson case where the problem was in part a parent who was imprisoned in another state. And we didn't even know what was going on with that situation because the two states weren't talking to each other. So there's a lot we have to continue to improve. But I don't think the problem is an underlying philosophical one. My message to all our agencies is – if we think a child is in danger, and we have the legal right to remove them, we should always err on the side of safety.

Marcia?

Question: Mr. Mayor, on June 30, 2015, there was a confirmed case of child maltreatment. On August 31, 2015, there was a confirmed case of child maltreatment. On February 2, 2016, another confirmed case of child maltreatment, another investigation [inaudible]. I guess the question many are asking is – how many investigations, how many charges have to be made before the City will [inaudible]?

Mayor: Marcia, we need a full investigation to answer what happened here. I'm not going to speculate. It's not fair to the family, the child, or the public to speculate. What we need to do is get all of the facts and put them out publicly. The – what I want to know is if agencies were involved with this child, whether it's NYPD, Department of Education, ACS – I want to know what happened and why. There are sometimes investigations that are done that prove there's nothing there. There are other times when we do an investigation and there's a very clear action. I want to know what happened here. And if we need to make any changes, I will very aggressively make those changes.

Question: Do you find this troubling though?

Mayor: I find it incredibly troubling. And I find it unacceptable that this child was lost, period. I'm not going to – I'm not going to judge or comment the specific facts until there's a full investigation. But I'll say if we find anything that was done wrong, we're going to fix it immediately because this is unacceptable.

Question: Follow-up on that – you said it was on the radar – it was on the radar of ACS. How much have you been briefed on this, because it seems like it would be very quick this morning to resolve [inaudible] to find out which agencies were involved. So you said earlier in the day that multiple government agencies were involved, I assume that's ACS, obviously it's NYPD in this case. Can you just elaborate a little bit more [inaudible]?

Mayor: Again, I don't – I am briefed initially. We're putting together the entire picture which is what an investigation does. And you know very – we've said this many times, when it comes to any matter of child welfare, we are very, very careful about confidentiality issues. So, there's a full investigation going on. That happened after the Myls Dobson case. We came out with a full report on what happened and what changes we were making. I'm not going to prejudge, I'm going to tell you that I'm going to be very personally involved in addressing what happened here. Yes?

Question: [Inaudible] does this remind you of [inaudible]?

Mayor: It reminds me of Nixzmary Brown for sure, and that's what's troubling to me. I was very actively involved after the Nixzmary Brown case because in that instance – I mean I remember all these cases well and what we learned from each one. In that case – different agencies had an opportunity to do something. That included NYPD, DOE, and ACS in the case of Nixzmary Brown.

And I want to know what happened here. I do believe there's been some very big changes between – in the relationship between the NYPD and ACS for example which used to be a very contentious relationship before Nixzmary Brown. I think that's a very different and better relationship. But I still need to understand how on Earth this could have happened. I don't understand how it could have.

I do want to emphasize – remember the other lesson we learned from Nixzmary Brown, and it's one of the most eternal lessons – how many people came forward. And a lot of your papers reported on it, and TV stations reported on it that people who said, "I heard something, I heard banging through the walls, I heard screaming but I didn't want to get involved or I wasn't sure or I didn't think it was that bad. I wish I had called it in." After every one of these cases we find there was more information we needed that someone had and hesitated.

And I understand maybe people are fearful of getting involved, I really do. But after Nixzmary Brown, this entire city rose up. It was absolutely extraordinary. The number of calls related to child welfare went up very, very high and stayed that way for many, many months thereafter. And people gave the benefit of the doubt to protecting children. That's what every New Yorker needs to do. If you think a child is in danger, make that call. Make that call. We need to know. We need to know everything you know because that could be the difference between looking at a case and being able to take further action. It could be just the information a single New Yorker has, and they need to share it with the authorities.

Question: A couple months ago, you promised that you would be doing quarterly homeless counts for HOME-STAT. We've been through now two rounds of quarterly counts, we haven't gotten those numbers. What are the numbers? And what's the direction?

Mayor: I'll find – I – the best of my understanding, we've been putting out a fair amount of information on HOME-STAT online. But I'll double check. I thought there's been a lot put out, I'll found out for you.

Question: [Inaudible] would we be able to get those numbers?

Mayor: Yes, sure.

Go ahead.

Question: Mayor, this morning, well last week, so Councilman Jumaane Williams chose not to stand during the Pledge of Allegiance for the City Council meeting as an act of protest, following of course Colin Kaepernick's [inaudible] kneeling during that national anthem. Then a few more Council members said they'd be doing the same thing as they stayed in meeting. Curious for your thoughts on this as a form of protest, now not just by athletes, but by elected officials, and whether you've ever thought about participating in such a protest?

Mayor: No, I would say, look – I absolutely respect everyone's First Amendment rights. And I very much respect what's motivating this protest because this issue has to be addressed. There's a fundamental inequality in this country – it has to be addressed. I take a different view with absolute respect for others who disagree. I take the view that the Pledge of Allegiance and saluting the flag during the national anthem are about an affirmation of our democracy that is still evolving that needs to get better, that needs to be truer to who we are and what we're supposed to be. And, I think that is a message unto itself that we believe we can fix things. But I also respect others who have a different choice and that is an American value that people get to make that choice.

In the back.

Question: Mr. Mayor, we reported last week that at least three City Council members had put in bill requests that regulate 501(c)(4)s like the Campaign for One New York to classify them if they're attached to an elected official, as a political action committee, then count toward the campaign finance system and other regulations. Is this something that's on your radar? And do you support the idea for the idea for regulating those types of –

Mayor: I haven't seen the legislation. I'll be happy to comment on it after I've had a chance to analyze it. I think we need clarification, obviously, but I haven't seen the legislation.

Question: Would you support the idea, for example, one of the bills – it's not drafted yet but the request is in that the bill would limit the [inaudible] such organizations if people have business with the City the same way the Campaign Finance Board –

Mayor: Again, I have to see the specific proposals and think about them. I am a believer in, as you know, disclosure, and that's the central point from point of view. But I'd have to see what's out there.

In the back.

Question: Mayor, I know you're getting updates from Commissioner Nigro and Commissioner O'Neill. What can you tell us about the investigation into the blast yesterday that killed Chief Fahy?

Mayor: A lot of work is being done. As you know, one individual of interest has been apprehended. I'll say starting on the very human level, you know, being at the hospital, having to be one of the people to tell his wife, to tell his parents was extraordinarily painful to see what they were going through. And having heard so much about Chief Fahy and what an extraordinary man he was, it was very, very painful all around.

And we are devoted to getting everyone who is involved, and I'm very certain we will. A lot of effort is going to be put into to finding everyone and anyone associated with that location, and bringing them to justice.

But what I can tell you is – it's a very extensive investigation, obviously, Fire Department and Police Department together. One individual has been apprehended. I expect we'll be finding others soon.

Question: You've released, recently, the Mayor's Management Report. Some groups like the Citizens Budget Commission identified some figures in your report that they noted were causes for potential concern like H+H [inaudible] seeing fewer patients in contrast to what your goals were [inaudible]. Do you still feel like the City is going to be able to shore up HHC's finances during this decline in patient enrollment care? Why don't we get a separate briefing on the MMR [inaudible] previous mayors have done?

Mayor: I don't know the answer to that question meaning it hasn't come up as a topic previously, so, I'm not familiar with what previous mayors have done with the MMR. Certainly, we'll talk about the way to make sure all those questions about it get answered.

On the Health + Hospitals questions, it's a very good question. It's a very real concern. Look, we've tried to be real blunt about two structural realities we're facing that are really deeply concerning. One is Health + Hospitals and the other is the Housing Authority. And we've got a turnaround plan in place for the Housing Authority that is making progress. We've got one in place for Health + Hospitals that's newer that we need to see a lot more progress from.

I think your question about whether we're going to be able to get the amount of people who want to come into the facilities, and use the services is a very real question. We think we will. We don't think it's an overnight kind of thing. We think we can get there by changing the approach to care, and changing the approach to outreach and, obviously, by getting a huge number more people signed for insurance.

I mean, this is one of the underlying contradictions here. We start – this whole City of New York starts with a million-person deficit – half-million people who are undocumented, not allowed to have insurance under Obamacare. Second half-million who could get insurance and are not enrolled. We're going to very aggressively go out and sign those folks up. And we think a lot of those folks will choose to get their care with Health + Hospitals. But that is a big effort.

So am I concerned? You bet I'm concerned. Are we watching those numbers? Absolutely. But I think the plan is the right plan. We've always projected it's going to take time to turn the situation.

Last one.

Question: Two weeks ago, you'd said that you no longer [inaudible] contact with [inaudible] terminate your relationship with lobbyists [inaudible] –

Mayor: You know, I think – bottom line is that we looked at the one situation where there were obviously structural problems. That was the Rivington case. And we've come out with a series of reforms. And then in terms of the lobbyists, as I've said, I think it's the right thing to do to just – I don't have dealings with them. But we'll continue to look and see if there's other things that make sense to do going forward. I think, essentially speaking, we continue to do the work. I mean, I understand, obviously, that people want to look at these other issues but our focus is on doing the work, doing it effectively, and making sure the government's functioning for people. That's where our focus is. And – go ahead.

Question: [Inaudible] apparatus have you given any instruction on who [inaudible] –

Mayor: That's something the campaign works on all the time in terms of what's an appropriate vetting process. That's not just my campaign, that's a lot of campaigns – determining what those standards are and how to best implement them. So, that's an ongoing discussion.

I want to say at the end here, I understand we're losing one of the flock – Jillian, what are you going off to cover?

Jillian Jorgensen: Food and drink at –

[Laughter]

Mayor: What did you do right to get food and drink as your assignment?

Jorgensen: Politics has driven me to drink.

[Laughter]

Mayor: That is called a soundbite. Well done, Jillian. Thank you.

Jorgensen: Thank you.

Mayor: Congratulations.

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