AUDIT: Democratizing Your Dollars
To assess the fiscal health of New York, the city charter requires that the city Comptroller audit at least some part or portion of every agency every four years. These audits help ensure that the agencies meet the goals set for them by elected officials and their own executives. By and large, these are financial audits, and the data being reviewed in making determinations is the agency revenues and expenditures.
But Brian knows that to really measure the success of New York City we need to look at more than dollars and cents. That’s because agencies reaching goals in the way that is most impactful to New Yorkers like you isn’t always going to be reflected in the bottom line. To ensure that every agency and program that the city runs is not only fiscally sound but also building a city that New Yorkers deserve to live in, every audit performed by Brian’s office will also include a sustainability audit and an equity audit.
The EQUITY AUDIT will look at programs and agencies to determine how their work is impacting communities now. These audits will be organized in three key areas each with its own markers of success:
For equal access, Brian’s team will determine if programs and agencies are doing their best to provide materials for New Yorkers who speak different languages or who use ASL. They’ll also look at the physical accessibility of spaces to ensure that the city is meeting and exceeding ADA standards so that every New Yorker can participate. Importantly, Brian will rate agencies' compliance with New York City’s Status as a Sanctuary City by determining if the agency is collaborating in any way with immigration enforcement.
For contracts and hiring, Brian will make sure that New York City’s public workforce is not only qualified, but looks like the city. He will push to ensure that M/WBE goals are met and exceeded. In 2019, less than 5% of city contracts went to M/WBEs. In the same year, more than 29% of New Yorkers were Hispanic / Latino and more than 24% were Black. We haven’t yet added in Asian-Americans or other key demographics and already you can see we have a serious problem. And on top of that, half our city is women, also included in M/WBE! We must do better. Brian will also ensure that companies we work with, to the greatest extent possible, also have fair contracting and hiring practices. We shouldn’t be spending our money somewhere that isn’t treating New Yorkers well.
For community engagement, Brian will draw on his experience as a former Community Board Chair to measure the extent to which agencies are engaging stakeholders in decision making when it is relevant. New Yorkers rely on the expertise of the public servants in our workforce, but we can all be better served if we add the local expertise of everyday New Yorkers when implementing new programs and ideas. After every disaster, lookbacks tell us that the city needs to build out plans to connect New Yorkers with relevant agencies, ensure that people check on their neighbors, that neighborhoods have diverse sets of resources at hand, and that volunteers are at the ready when disaster strikes. But these connections are just as important in a time of calm as they are in a time of disaster. What look like relatively weak ties are actually what make New York City strong, and every agency should be investing in by engaging with stakeholders and residents as frequently as possible.
The SUSTAINABILITY AUDIT will look at programs and agencies to determine how their work is impacting our future. These audits will be organized in three key areas each with its own markers of success:
For climate change, Brian will measure each program or agency's success in meeting the goals in OneNYC2050, New York City’s sustainability master plan. This plan lays out how we can build a greener, fairer, and stronger city that is ready to face the future, including the climate crisis. Within the confines of a formerly redlined neighborhood it is not hard to see the urgency with which we must tackle this issue as a community and as a city. Decades of disinvestment and lack of green space in neighborhoods like the neighborhoods Brian represents mean that, when summer heat rises because of carbon emissions, it is neighborhoods like Harlem and Brownsville that suffer more emergency room visits and deaths from heat stroke. And when infrastructure crumbles and our air or even soil remains poisoned, its children in Highbridge and East Harlem that end up with record high rates of asthma hospitalizations. This is the threat of climate change, and with a daughter growing up in Harlem, Brian is incredibly committed to meeting it head on.
For emergency preparedness, Brian will look at how each agency is working to prepare for disasters big and small. COVID-19 has taught us all that disaster preparedness is not just an exercise we go through once a year, and we have to take it seriously if we care about our neighbors, particularly the most vulnerable. These emergency preparedness audits will look at everything from short term concerns such as ensuring there is an active shooter plan to long term concerns such as looking at agencies work to build out the city’s resilience to survive hurricanes with as little damage and trauma as possible.
For innovation, Brian will take a hard look at how agencies are responding to new situations to keep their work relevant and impactful. He’ll ensure that his team hears not only from executives, but also from other relevant staff and impacted individuals about what’s working and what isn’t so that each agency is doing everything it can to meet the needs of the greatest city on earth.
Importantly, Brian will make all of this information available to New York City residents on the comptroller's website, so that it will not only guide policy makers and elected officials in their decision making, but also provide an important layer of accountability.