Local and Community News
New York City Mayor Backs Off on AIDS Plan
June 3, 2003
The administration of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, bowing to pressure from City Council and AIDS advocacy groups, has decided not to outsource case management jobs at the HIV/AIDS Services Administration or seek changes to Local Law 49, the 1997 legislation that governs HASA. The city agency serves some 31,000 people with AIDS, linking them to counseling, Medicaid and housing assistance. This represents a significant retreat by Bloomberg, who criticized the law and HASA and called for changes to both in his first policy speech on AIDS earlier this year.Adapted from:
AIDS groups did not immediately oppose the mayor, but when the changes appeared -- without any warning or consultation with the groups or City Council -- in his proposed 2004 fiscal year budget, there was an explosion of protest. Some 200 people protested the plan at a May 14 rally at City Hall.
In exchange for surrendering the proposals, the administration got City Council to implement a sales tax increase at roughly the same time a state sales tax increase takes effect. The mayor also agreed not to increase fines for violations of the city's recycling laws and pledged that if a restructuring at three city agencies does not save an expected $75 million, that amount will not be cut from the agencies' budgets.
While activists said they remained open to discussing changes at HASA -- so long as the changes improved services to agency clients -- they insisted that those discussions should not happen in budget negotiations. "Our feeling was that this is more of a policy issue than a budget issue and it should be taken out of the budget," said Ronald Johnson, associate executive director at Gay Men's Health Crisis.
Local Law 49 sets standards for HASA, including maintaining a certain ratio of case managers to clients, and issuing regular reports to City Council. HASA cannot be restructured without first amending the law. While AIDS groups are pleased, they do not expect that this is the end of the discussion of HASA restructuring.
Gay City News (New York City)
05.30.03; Duncan Osborne