Charter Commission Dives Into Priorities
July 12th, 2010
It’s a sure bet the city Charter Revision Commission will send term limits back to the voters this fall, but it’s too soon to tell what proposal will be the odds on favorite.
Members of the city’s Charter Revision Commission met in a crowded, sweltry room in Lower Manhattan this evening to try to cull through proposals offered by its staff in a preliminary report released Friday. The report recommends myriad issues for the commission to explore — none more controversial than term limits.
So far, the report breaks down the issue by asking whether to go back to the voters with just two terms or to offer three terms for members of the City Council and just two for the mayor, comptroller and public advocate. Tonight it appeared commissioners favored rescinding the controversial third term extension approved by the council in 2008 and going back to two terms.
“Since the people not once, but twice voted for two, two’s what should be on the ballot,” said Commissioner Kenneth M. Moltner.
Following the meeting, Commission Chairman Matthew Goldstein said the commission has not ruled out three terms. “There is varied views on this,” he said.
Several commissioners also suggested allowing voters to opine on doing away with term limits entirely.
Also at hand is the issue of who can extend term limits and when. While the issue of banning the council from acting on term limits again was initially palatable to commissioners and members of the public, several commissioners this evening said the prohibition would likely be challenged in court. The consensus tonight was to require any legislative change in term limits apply to a future class.
Following initial expectations that the commission would dive into issues of government power (like doing away with the public advocate), land use and nonpartisan elections, Goldstein said these topics were too large to fully dissect before this fall’s election.
While they may not be ripe for the commission to tackle, some commissioners expressed frustration that commission staff, headed by Lorna Goodman, did not discuss them in depth in its preliminary report.
“To make it two paragraphs,” said Commissioner Carlo Scissura, the chief of staff to Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, regarding the discussion of borough presidents and community boards, “I’m embarrassed.”
Just because a topic didn’t make it into the report, doesn’t mean the commission will not consider it, Goldstein said.
Other areas in the report, including the halving of signature requirements to get on the ballot, the disclosure of independent expenditures in city campaigns and the consolidation of the Voter Assistance Commission into the Campaign Finance Board, received support from the commission.
Next up for the commission, Citizens Union, the sister organization to Gotham Gazette’s publisher, will testify next Monday on its own report to the body. First up, Goldstein said, would be the body’s reversal on nonpartisan elections, which it had previously opposed. In its new report Citizens Union urges the commission to consider nonpartisan elections.By Courtney Gross on July 12, 2010, 10:20 pm
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