Gotham Gazette Gotham Gazette is an online publication covering New York policy and politics as well as news on public safety, transportation, education, finance and more. http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/gale-brewer 2018-11-21T02:36:21+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com De Blasio Pushes 'Yes' Vote on 3 Ballot Proposals 2018-11-01T04:00:00+00:00 2018-11-01T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8040-de-blasio-pushes-yes-vote-on-3-ballot-proposals Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/de-blasio-3-ballet.png" alt="de blasio 3 ballet" width="600" height="321" /></p> <p>32BJ's Hector Figueroa, with Mayor de Blasio and others (photo: @32BJSEIU)</p> <hr /> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday continued his eleventh-hour push for the ballot proposals put forth by his Charter Revision Commission, with a rally at the headquarters of labor union 32BJ SEIU, where he was joined by other unions, elected officials, and advocates in favor of the three reforms that will appear on New York City voters’ ballots on Election Day.</p> <p>De Blasio, who announced the commission in his 2018 State of the City address to examine and propose revisions to the city’s charter, characterizes the three proposals as ones that will strengthen democracy in New York City. Broadly speaking, though each has numerous accompanying details, the proposals are to lower individual campaign contribution limits and increase the public match ratio; create a civic engagement commission that would run a citywide participatory budgeting program and do other tasks to promote civic involvement; and, most controversially, term limits for community board members and other changes to the community board membership process.</p> <p>After saying virtually nothing about them for weeks, the mayor has been on something of a last-minute whirlwind tour in favor of the proposals. On Sunday, the mayor <a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/city-hall/story/2018/10/28/de-blasio-stumps-for-his-ballot-initiatives-667543" target="_blank" rel="noopener">stumped</a> for them at two Manhattan churches. On Tuesday, he conducted a telephone town hall and published an <a href="http://www.brooklyneagle.com/articles/2018/10/30/opinion-vote-“yes”-“yes”-and-“yes”-charter-revisions?mc_cid=1cf4ae65ef&amp;mc_eid=f02a39d0e6" target="_blank" rel="noopener">op-ed</a> in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle supporting the measures. He and his team have been urging allies, including Senator Bernie Sanders, to promote “yes” votes, and the mayor’s social media feeds have been promoting the measures and expressions of support for them.</p> <p>The Thursday rally, backed by the “<a href="https://reinventalbany.org/2018/10/newly-formed-democracy-yes-coalition-announces-campaign-to-support-nyc-charter-revision-commission-ballot-questions/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Democracy Yes</a>” coalition of unions, advocates, good government groups, and community groups that support the proposals, is the latest in de Blasio’s campaign sweep through the city in favor of the charter revisions.</p> <p>The mayor and the assembled crowd characterized the measures as a way to wrest control of the democratic process away from old, wealthy, white men and towards more democratic control and greater representation for young people, people of color, immigrants, and low-income people.</p> <p>“If what young people hear from everyone else around them is, ‘wait your turn,’ that is not a way to create a healthier, stronger democracy,” de Blasio said, referencing opposition to the community board term limit proposal. Critics say term limits would lead to a brain drain on community boards to the benefit of real estate developers, though the real estate lobby itself is against term limits. The proposal would limit members to four consectuve two-year terms, but those term-limited from reapplying would only have to sit out one two-year term before being eligible for reappointment by their borough president.</p> <p>The borough presidents, aside from Brooklyn’s Eric Adams, and Comptroller Scott Stringer (the former Manhattan borough president) have led the charge against Proposal 3.</p> <p>“Our message needs to be the opposite,” the mayor continued.</p> <p>“Imagine if the system was not rigged against everyday people, but actually strengthened the hand of everyday New Yorkers so we could lead our own city,” de Blasio said.</p> <p>The Rev. Al Sharpton also spoke in favor of all three proposals, making racial justice arguments and calling the measures models for the country and bulwarks against voter suppression nationwide, invoking the memory of civil rights movement protesters.</p> <p>“These measures that we’re voting in New York is what they fought for to give us the right to vote,” Sharpton said. “They did not fight, and some die, to give us the right to vote for only people with rich friends to be able to run for office.”</p> <p>The city’s public campaign financing system, whereby the first or up to $175 of a donation is matched 6-to-1 by public dollars, is often considered a model for the nation for how to achieve sustainable public financing of campaigns. Proposal 1 would increase the match to 8-to-1, and match donations up to $250. It would also lower campaign contribution limits for all city offices. Advocates say that it would allow more people to run for office and lower prospective candidates’ reliance on wealthy people for funding.</p> <p>“When we consider running for office, we encounter barriers so difficult to overcome, many feel defeated,” said Hercules Reid, the former student government president at the New York City College of Technology and current legislative director for the CUNY University Student Senate. “It is a herculean task trying to get elected in this city.”</p> <p>“Barriers to office are real, and a real big one is that not a lot of us know a ton of rich people,” Reid continued. De Blasio later echoed this point, though the mayor has raised significant funds from large donors, both for his election campaigns and outside groups. It was fundraising for those outside groups -- nonprofit advocacy organizations -- that led to investigations of de Blasio and his associates that resulted in no criminal charges but sharp criticism from law enforcement leaders and good government advocates, among others, as well as new city laws meant to curb the type of fundraising de Blasio did.</p> <p>The second ballot question would establish a “civic engagement commission” to increase participation in New York’s civic life, including voting. The mayor noted improving translation services at the polls as a particularly important item for the commission to take up, while City Council Member Brad Lander discussed increasing community engagement with and knowledge of community boards, PTAs, and other institutions. The most significant job of the commission, however, would be to expand participatory budgeting citywide.</p> <p>Practiced in 31 of the 51 City Council districts this year, participatory budgeting allows community residents to suggest and vote on specific projects within their districts that they would like to fund with tax dollars allocated through the local Council member’s capital funds.</p> <p>“A little over half the city now has it, but almost half does not, and most New Yorkers don’t yet know about it, because we’ve not been able to invest real citywide resources in it,” Lander said. “Participatory budgeting functions like a gateway drug to democracy.” <a href="https://council.nyc.gov/brad-lander/pb/7/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Some projects funded in Lander’s district in the last cycle</a> include replacing “derelict Kindergarten sinks at PS 282,” replacing a broken gate at the PS 118 schoolyard to make it accessible, and building a “playground” for seniors.</p> <p>Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Comptroller Stringer both take issue with the civic engagement commission, which Stringer characterizes as a power grab by the mayor, who would appoint a majority of its members. Brewer, who has <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8000-brewer-creates-committee-to-oppose-charter-revision-proposals" target="_blank">formed an independent expenditure committee</a> in opposition to questions 2 and 3, asserts that the commission’s outreach and assistance efforts with community boards would be an encroachment by the mayor on a duty typically performed by borough presidents.</p> <p>“A ‘Civic Engagement Commission’ controlled by any Mayor also puts communities at a disadvantage and won’t enhance democracy in our neighborhoods,” Stringer said in a statement released soon after the mayor’s rally. Asked for a response, de Blasio said that the commission’s structure as proposed is “organized for effectiveness” but didn’t elaborate, and noted that he supports a “professionalized” Board of Elections.</p> <p>On the third and most controversial proposal, which is centered on term limits for community board members, the mayor and advocates claim that term limits have been successful for elected city officials, and instituting them for community boards would free up space for new voices where older and whiter ones than the communities they represent typically reign. The proposal would also require borough presidents to seek people of “diverse backgrounds” for appointments, to make the boards more accurately represent their communities, and provide more public information.</p> <p>“If the door’s not open, that’s not democracy,” de Blasio said. “Community boards have to be for everyone, every community, every background, young, old, everyone needs a chance to serve. Term limits for community boards is simply the way of saying ‘let’s give everyone a chance to participate.’”</p> <p>Opponents of term limits, such as Brewer and Stringer, have charged that an exodus of longtime, experienced community board members would cause both a brain drain and a diminution of influence on complex land use decisions, allowing developers to run roughshod over them.</p> <p>“It would have the effect of allowing developers and their lawyers—who are never term limited!—to dominate development negotiations, because those long-time members will be gone,” Brewer <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8000-brewer-creates-committee-to-oppose-charter-revision-proposals" target="_blank">wrote</a> in an email to supporters in October signaling her opposition to Questions 2 and 3. “And on long-term city projects like street redesign or sustainability, newly-appointed community board members would have little influence over long-term projects. Every Board’s institutional memory would be wiped out.”</p> <p>De Blasio did not buy the arguments. “I have term limits, my colleagues in the City Council have term limits, the President of the United States has term limits,” he said. “I think there’s something healthy about the notion that all public servants have an opportunity to turn over the reins once in a while.”</p> <p>“Let’s say someone served for 20 years on their community board,” he continued. “Under this ballot measure, they will get to serve another eight years, they would take a two year break, and if they wanted to come back and there was a seat, they could have that seat. I think there will be plenty of institutional knowledge preserved. But honestly, what we’re missing right now is new voices, we’re missing diversity, we’re missing young people.”</p> <p>Another charter revision commission, empaneled by the City Council through legislation pushed by Brewer and Public Advocate Letitia James, started while the mayor’s commission was underway and is working to produce its own ballot measures for 2019. The mayor told Gotham Gazette that the commissions are not rivaling each other, and that his office is working with the 2019 commission, on which he has several appointees.</p> <p>Some issues were considered and rejected by the mayor’s commission, including independent redistricting of City Council districts and ranked-choice voting. The mayor told Gotham Gazette that he hopes the 2019 commission continues looking into ranked-choice voting, in particular.</p> <p>“There was a very vibrant discussion in this charter revision commission, for example, about ranked-choice voting,” he said. “For me, the jury’s still out on ranked-choice voting. I grew up with it, in Massachusetts. I think it has strengths and I think it has weaknesses, and I’d certainly like to see a lot more research on it. But there’s a lot of people who believe it might be very beneficial in New York City. That’s the kind of thing that deserves a really thorough airing of all the facts.”</p> <p>

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by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/de-blasio-3-ballet.png" alt="de blasio 3 ballet" width="600" height="321" /></p> <p>32BJ's Hector Figueroa, with Mayor de Blasio and others (photo: @32BJSEIU)</p> <hr /> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday continued his eleventh-hour push for the ballot proposals put forth by his Charter Revision Commission, with a rally at the headquarters of labor union 32BJ SEIU, where he was joined by other unions, elected officials, and advocates in favor of the three reforms that will appear on New York City voters’ ballots on Election Day.</p> <p>De Blasio, who announced the commission in his 2018 State of the City address to examine and propose revisions to the city’s charter, characterizes the three proposals as ones that will strengthen democracy in New York City. Broadly speaking, though each has numerous accompanying details, the proposals are to lower individual campaign contribution limits and increase the public match ratio; create a civic engagement commission that would run a citywide participatory budgeting program and do other tasks to promote civic involvement; and, most controversially, term limits for community board members and other changes to the community board membership process.</p> <p>After saying virtually nothing about them for weeks, the mayor has been on something of a last-minute whirlwind tour in favor of the proposals. On Sunday, the mayor <a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/city-hall/story/2018/10/28/de-blasio-stumps-for-his-ballot-initiatives-667543" target="_blank" rel="noopener">stumped</a> for them at two Manhattan churches. On Tuesday, he conducted a telephone town hall and published an <a href="http://www.brooklyneagle.com/articles/2018/10/30/opinion-vote-“yes”-“yes”-and-“yes”-charter-revisions?mc_cid=1cf4ae65ef&amp;mc_eid=f02a39d0e6" target="_blank" rel="noopener">op-ed</a> in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle supporting the measures. He and his team have been urging allies, including Senator Bernie Sanders, to promote “yes” votes, and the mayor’s social media feeds have been promoting the measures and expressions of support for them.</p> <p>The Thursday rally, backed by the “<a href="https://reinventalbany.org/2018/10/newly-formed-democracy-yes-coalition-announces-campaign-to-support-nyc-charter-revision-commission-ballot-questions/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Democracy Yes</a>” coalition of unions, advocates, good government groups, and community groups that support the proposals, is the latest in de Blasio’s campaign sweep through the city in favor of the charter revisions.</p> <p>The mayor and the assembled crowd characterized the measures as a way to wrest control of the democratic process away from old, wealthy, white men and towards more democratic control and greater representation for young people, people of color, immigrants, and low-income people.</p> <p>“If what young people hear from everyone else around them is, ‘wait your turn,’ that is not a way to create a healthier, stronger democracy,” de Blasio said, referencing opposition to the community board term limit proposal. Critics say term limits would lead to a brain drain on community boards to the benefit of real estate developers, though the real estate lobby itself is against term limits. The proposal would limit members to four consectuve two-year terms, but those term-limited from reapplying would only have to sit out one two-year term before being eligible for reappointment by their borough president.</p> <p>The borough presidents, aside from Brooklyn’s Eric Adams, and Comptroller Scott Stringer (the former Manhattan borough president) have led the charge against Proposal 3.</p> <p>“Our message needs to be the opposite,” the mayor continued.</p> <p>“Imagine if the system was not rigged against everyday people, but actually strengthened the hand of everyday New Yorkers so we could lead our own city,” de Blasio said.</p> <p>The Rev. Al Sharpton also spoke in favor of all three proposals, making racial justice arguments and calling the measures models for the country and bulwarks against voter suppression nationwide, invoking the memory of civil rights movement protesters.</p> <p>“These measures that we’re voting in New York is what they fought for to give us the right to vote,” Sharpton said. “They did not fight, and some die, to give us the right to vote for only people with rich friends to be able to run for office.”</p> <p>The city’s public campaign financing system, whereby the first or up to $175 of a donation is matched 6-to-1 by public dollars, is often considered a model for the nation for how to achieve sustainable public financing of campaigns. Proposal 1 would increase the match to 8-to-1, and match donations up to $250. It would also lower campaign contribution limits for all city offices. Advocates say that it would allow more people to run for office and lower prospective candidates’ reliance on wealthy people for funding.</p> <p>“When we consider running for office, we encounter barriers so difficult to overcome, many feel defeated,” said Hercules Reid, the former student government president at the New York City College of Technology and current legislative director for the CUNY University Student Senate. “It is a herculean task trying to get elected in this city.”</p> <p>“Barriers to office are real, and a real big one is that not a lot of us know a ton of rich people,” Reid continued. De Blasio later echoed this point, though the mayor has raised significant funds from large donors, both for his election campaigns and outside groups. It was fundraising for those outside groups -- nonprofit advocacy organizations -- that led to investigations of de Blasio and his associates that resulted in no criminal charges but sharp criticism from law enforcement leaders and good government advocates, among others, as well as new city laws meant to curb the type of fundraising de Blasio did.</p> <p>The second ballot question would establish a “civic engagement commission” to increase participation in New York’s civic life, including voting. The mayor noted improving translation services at the polls as a particularly important item for the commission to take up, while City Council Member Brad Lander discussed increasing community engagement with and knowledge of community boards, PTAs, and other institutions. The most significant job of the commission, however, would be to expand participatory budgeting citywide.</p> <p>Practiced in 31 of the 51 City Council districts this year, participatory budgeting allows community residents to suggest and vote on specific projects within their districts that they would like to fund with tax dollars allocated through the local Council member’s capital funds.</p> <p>“A little over half the city now has it, but almost half does not, and most New Yorkers don’t yet know about it, because we’ve not been able to invest real citywide resources in it,” Lander said. “Participatory budgeting functions like a gateway drug to democracy.” <a href="https://council.nyc.gov/brad-lander/pb/7/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Some projects funded in Lander’s district in the last cycle</a> include replacing “derelict Kindergarten sinks at PS 282,” replacing a broken gate at the PS 118 schoolyard to make it accessible, and building a “playground” for seniors.</p> <p>Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Comptroller Stringer both take issue with the civic engagement commission, which Stringer characterizes as a power grab by the mayor, who would appoint a majority of its members. Brewer, who has <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8000-brewer-creates-committee-to-oppose-charter-revision-proposals" target="_blank">formed an independent expenditure committee</a> in opposition to questions 2 and 3, asserts that the commission’s outreach and assistance efforts with community boards would be an encroachment by the mayor on a duty typically performed by borough presidents.</p> <p>“A ‘Civic Engagement Commission’ controlled by any Mayor also puts communities at a disadvantage and won’t enhance democracy in our neighborhoods,” Stringer said in a statement released soon after the mayor’s rally. Asked for a response, de Blasio said that the commission’s structure as proposed is “organized for effectiveness” but didn’t elaborate, and noted that he supports a “professionalized” Board of Elections.</p> <p>On the third and most controversial proposal, which is centered on term limits for community board members, the mayor and advocates claim that term limits have been successful for elected city officials, and instituting them for community boards would free up space for new voices where older and whiter ones than the communities they represent typically reign. The proposal would also require borough presidents to seek people of “diverse backgrounds” for appointments, to make the boards more accurately represent their communities, and provide more public information.</p> <p>“If the door’s not open, that’s not democracy,” de Blasio said. “Community boards have to be for everyone, every community, every background, young, old, everyone needs a chance to serve. Term limits for community boards is simply the way of saying ‘let’s give everyone a chance to participate.’”</p> <p>Opponents of term limits, such as Brewer and Stringer, have charged that an exodus of longtime, experienced community board members would cause both a brain drain and a diminution of influence on complex land use decisions, allowing developers to run roughshod over them.</p> <p>“It would have the effect of allowing developers and their lawyers—who are never term limited!—to dominate development negotiations, because those long-time members will be gone,” Brewer <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8000-brewer-creates-committee-to-oppose-charter-revision-proposals" target="_blank">wrote</a> in an email to supporters in October signaling her opposition to Questions 2 and 3. “And on long-term city projects like street redesign or sustainability, newly-appointed community board members would have little influence over long-term projects. Every Board’s institutional memory would be wiped out.”</p> <p>De Blasio did not buy the arguments. “I have term limits, my colleagues in the City Council have term limits, the President of the United States has term limits,” he said. “I think there’s something healthy about the notion that all public servants have an opportunity to turn over the reins once in a while.”</p> <p>“Let’s say someone served for 20 years on their community board,” he continued. “Under this ballot measure, they will get to serve another eight years, they would take a two year break, and if they wanted to come back and there was a seat, they could have that seat. I think there will be plenty of institutional knowledge preserved. But honestly, what we’re missing right now is new voices, we’re missing diversity, we’re missing young people.”</p> <p>Another charter revision commission, empaneled by the City Council through legislation pushed by Brewer and Public Advocate Letitia James, started while the mayor’s commission was underway and is working to produce its own ballot measures for 2019. The mayor told Gotham Gazette that the commissions are not rivaling each other, and that his office is working with the 2019 commission, on which he has several appointees.</p> <p>Some issues were considered and rejected by the mayor’s commission, including independent redistricting of City Council districts and ranked-choice voting. The mayor told Gotham Gazette that he hopes the 2019 commission continues looking into ranked-choice voting, in particular.</p> <p>“There was a very vibrant discussion in this charter revision commission, for example, about ranked-choice voting,” he said. “For me, the jury’s still out on ranked-choice voting. I grew up with it, in Massachusetts. I think it has strengths and I think it has weaknesses, and I’d certainly like to see a lot more research on it. But there’s a lot of people who believe it might be very beneficial in New York City. That’s the kind of thing that deserves a really thorough airing of all the facts.”</p> <p>

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by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Prominent Elected Officials Oppose De Blasio Charter Revision Proposals 2018-10-29T04:00:00+00:00 2018-10-29T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8026-prominent-elected-officials-oppose-de-blasio-charter-revision-proposals Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/27811376699_c0b0d6b3ca_z.jpg" alt="Mayor de Blasio " width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio (photo: Benjamin Kanter/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio is seeking to make a lasting impact on city governance through a charter revision commission that would transform the city’s campaign finance system, promote greater civic involvement in city affairs, and inject new blood into local community boards. But prominent elected officials, most of whom are Democrats like de Blasio, don’t agree with the proposals the mayor’s commission has put on the November 6 ballot and are urging New Yorkers to reject them.</p> <p>The mayor’s commission put <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/charter/downloads/pdf/2018_charter_revision_commission_ballot_proposals_1_pdf.PDF" target="_blank" rel="noopener">three questions</a> on the ballot for voter approval through a simple majority. The first would significantly reduce individual campaign contribution limits and expand the city’s public matching funds program; the second would create a civic engagement commission with appointments mostly by the mayor to coordinate citywide participatory budgeting and other initiatives such as interpreting services at polling sites; and the third would impose term limits on community board members and alter how those members are recruited and appointed to ensure greater diversity.</p> <p>Though the mayor appointed the commission and announced its areas of focus, he was not to have direct say over its final report or proposals, but he did announce support for all three and is now campaigning to see them approved by voters.</p> <p>“These reforms will go a long way toward strengthening our democracy and limiting the influence of big money in our elections,” he said in a September statement, when the proposals were released. “There's no doubt in my mind that these measures will help us build a more fair and equitable city.” <a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/city-hall/story/2018/10/28/de-blasio-stumps-for-his-ballot-initiatives-667543" target="_blank" rel="noopener">On Sunday</a>, de Blasio spoke at two churches in Manhattan, urging congregants to flip their ballot and decide on the three questions. “[V]ote yes, yes, yes. So we can open up the doors of democracy wide and make this an even greater city,” he said at Bethel Gospel Assembly.</p> <p>Other elected officials, however, are not so certain, and are expressing somewhat mixed reviews, though many are opposed to community board term limits.</p> <p>City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, for instance, supports lowering contribution limits and creating a civic engagement commission, but not term limits for community board members. “I don’t think term limits are necessary,” Johnson, a former community boar chair, said in a statement to Gotham Gazette. “These aren’t lifetime appointments. They must be reappointed by elected officials who are term limited. I think that provides enough checks and balances to our community boards, while allowing us to keep the good members with experience and wisdom. It is also our job as elected officials to always be looking to appoint new civic minded leaders who are interested in serving.”</p> <p>It’s an argument that’s also been advanced by four of the five borough presidents -- only Brooklyn’s Eric Adams supports the term limits question.</p> <p>Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, in fact, led the creation of an independent expenditure committee to oppose both term limits and the civic engagement commission, an effort in which she was joined by Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, and Staten Island Borough President James Oddo (Oddo is the lone Republican in the group). “These proposals would be a real—and in some cases dangerous—disruption to the way Community Boards protect our communities,” Brewer wrote in an email to supporters earlier this month, arguing that it could lead to a drain in institutional wisdom and give real estate interests and lobbyists a leg up in discussions about community development. The proposal does include a provision whereby individuals term-limited off of community boards are eligible to serve again after a one-term, two-year “cooling off period.”</p> <p>“Our community boards are the eyes and ears of our neighborhoods and are often the first line of defense against unwanted projects as well as the initial point of contact between city agencies and our neighbors,” said Diaz Jr. “We should be working to strengthen their role, not strip them of the knowledge and historical focus that makes them so important in the first place.”</p> <p>Katz said the current appointment process allows “ample opportunity” to pick diverse candidates “for a dynamic mix of talent,” while Oddo worried that the “one-size-fits-all solution” could have unintended consequences.</p> <p>Adams, however, has argued, “While institutional knowledge is valuable, a reasonable term limit for Community Board members will allow the best of both worlds: institutional knowledge and new voices.”</p> <p>On expanding the campaign finance system, however, only Adams and Oddo have publicly opposed the question among the borough presidents, though for different reasons. “[Brooklyn BP Adams] opposes the campaign finance reform measure because it doesn’t go far enough as he believes in 100 percent public financing,” said an Adams spokesperson. Oddo, on the other hand, has been a staunch opponent of public financing and simply said, “Hell no!” about proposal one.</p> <p>Spokespeople for Katz and Diaz Jr. did not respond to requests for comment about the campaign finance reform proposal.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8000-brewer-creates-committee-to-oppose-charter-revision-proposals" target="_blank">Brewer Creates Committee to Oppose Charter Revision Proposals</a>]</p> <p>Comptroller Scott Stringer also opposes the second and third questions while supporting the first on campaign finance reform. “The City must take a serious look at our Charter — it’s critical to tackling the important issues facing New Yorkers,” he said in a statement. Stringer has laid out his own exhaustive plan of charter proposals to the 2019 charter commission, a separate one from the mayor’s that was created through City Council legislation that is taking a far broader look at the city’s governing principles.&nbsp;</p> <p>Stringer added, “I support the first initiative because we need a campaign finance system that does everything it can to engage New Yorkers and help people run for office. I oppose proposals 2 and 3 which will weaken communities’ voices in shaping their own development.”</p> <p>At an October 31 news conference at City Hall, Gotham Gazette asked Speaker Johnson if he would urge the 2019 commission to reverse community board term limits if they should pass. Johnson said he would not. "I think it's important to lice by the will of the voters," he said. &nbsp;</p> <p>A spokesperson for Public Advocate Letitia James did not provide her stances despite multiple requests for comment, one of which was acknowledged.</p> <p>Among a few rank-and-file City Council Members, reception of the proposals seems to be mixed. Council Member Brad Lander, a Brooklyn Democrat, for example, supports all three proposals and has in particular been advocating for the creation of the civic engagement commission -- Lander had proposed the idea through legislation and presented it to the commission.</p> <p>“I truly believe these ballot proposals give us an opportunity to do something important to strengthen our local democracy: To improve our campaign finance rules. To turbo-charge civic engagement. To expand participatory budgeting city-wide,” he said in an email blast to supporters, calling on New Yorkers to pledge their support.</p> <p>Manhattan Council Member Ben Kallos, also a Democrat, is backing all the proposals as well. Kallos has been a staunch campaign finance reform advocate and the first question would partially achieve what he has in the past tried to do through legislation, to expand the amount of public funds given to candidates running for office. “Democracy in New York City will finally get better,” he said in a September 6 statement, if the first question is passed, “reducing contribution limits and making small dollars more valuable by matching more of them with a greater multiplier.”</p> <p>City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, a Queens Democrat, is also <a href="https://twitter.com/JimmyVanBramer/status/1057284940314918913" target="_blank" rel="noopener">urging a "yes" vote</a> on all three proposals. City Council Member Jumaane Williams, a Brooklyn Democrat, has expressed support for the campaign finance proposal, but a spokesperson did not respond to a request for his positions on the other two.</p> <p>On the other end, there’s Council Member Helen Rosenthal, again a Manhattan Democrat, who opposes all three measures. “The spirit of the first two proposals is positive and some of the substance is even promising, but each raises significant concerns to the point where I cannot support them,” she said in a statement to Gotham Gazette. Also noting a criticism that was raised when the mayor first announced his commission, she added, “Of course, all three proposals could be implemented through the current legislative process.”</p> <p>Even government reform groups appear somewhat split on the ballot proposals. Reinvent Albany is advocating for all three. “Reinvent Albany believes a YES vote on these ballot measures will collectively amplify the voice of everyday New Yorkers and create new opportunities for injecting fresh perspectives into the public debate over how to make our city better for everyone,” the group said in an email blast on Monday.</p> <p>Citizens Union, another good government advocacy organization <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/ny-pol-citizens-union-charter-revision-questions-20181024-story.html">opposes</a> the proposal for a civic engagement commission, supports community board term limits, and has not taken a position on the campaign finance question.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - This article has been updated with additional comment from City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Council Members Jimmy Van Bramer and Jumaane Williams. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/27811376699_c0b0d6b3ca_z.jpg" alt="Mayor de Blasio " width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio (photo: Benjamin Kanter/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio is seeking to make a lasting impact on city governance through a charter revision commission that would transform the city’s campaign finance system, promote greater civic involvement in city affairs, and inject new blood into local community boards. But prominent elected officials, most of whom are Democrats like de Blasio, don’t agree with the proposals the mayor’s commission has put on the November 6 ballot and are urging New Yorkers to reject them.</p> <p>The mayor’s commission put <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/charter/downloads/pdf/2018_charter_revision_commission_ballot_proposals_1_pdf.PDF" target="_blank" rel="noopener">three questions</a> on the ballot for voter approval through a simple majority. The first would significantly reduce individual campaign contribution limits and expand the city’s public matching funds program; the second would create a civic engagement commission with appointments mostly by the mayor to coordinate citywide participatory budgeting and other initiatives such as interpreting services at polling sites; and the third would impose term limits on community board members and alter how those members are recruited and appointed to ensure greater diversity.</p> <p>Though the mayor appointed the commission and announced its areas of focus, he was not to have direct say over its final report or proposals, but he did announce support for all three and is now campaigning to see them approved by voters.</p> <p>“These reforms will go a long way toward strengthening our democracy and limiting the influence of big money in our elections,” he said in a September statement, when the proposals were released. “There's no doubt in my mind that these measures will help us build a more fair and equitable city.” <a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/city-hall/story/2018/10/28/de-blasio-stumps-for-his-ballot-initiatives-667543" target="_blank" rel="noopener">On Sunday</a>, de Blasio spoke at two churches in Manhattan, urging congregants to flip their ballot and decide on the three questions. “[V]ote yes, yes, yes. So we can open up the doors of democracy wide and make this an even greater city,” he said at Bethel Gospel Assembly.</p> <p>Other elected officials, however, are not so certain, and are expressing somewhat mixed reviews, though many are opposed to community board term limits.</p> <p>City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, for instance, supports lowering contribution limits and creating a civic engagement commission, but not term limits for community board members. “I don’t think term limits are necessary,” Johnson, a former community boar chair, said in a statement to Gotham Gazette. “These aren’t lifetime appointments. They must be reappointed by elected officials who are term limited. I think that provides enough checks and balances to our community boards, while allowing us to keep the good members with experience and wisdom. It is also our job as elected officials to always be looking to appoint new civic minded leaders who are interested in serving.”</p> <p>It’s an argument that’s also been advanced by four of the five borough presidents -- only Brooklyn’s Eric Adams supports the term limits question.</p> <p>Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, in fact, led the creation of an independent expenditure committee to oppose both term limits and the civic engagement commission, an effort in which she was joined by Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, and Staten Island Borough President James Oddo (Oddo is the lone Republican in the group). “These proposals would be a real—and in some cases dangerous—disruption to the way Community Boards protect our communities,” Brewer wrote in an email to supporters earlier this month, arguing that it could lead to a drain in institutional wisdom and give real estate interests and lobbyists a leg up in discussions about community development. The proposal does include a provision whereby individuals term-limited off of community boards are eligible to serve again after a one-term, two-year “cooling off period.”</p> <p>“Our community boards are the eyes and ears of our neighborhoods and are often the first line of defense against unwanted projects as well as the initial point of contact between city agencies and our neighbors,” said Diaz Jr. “We should be working to strengthen their role, not strip them of the knowledge and historical focus that makes them so important in the first place.”</p> <p>Katz said the current appointment process allows “ample opportunity” to pick diverse candidates “for a dynamic mix of talent,” while Oddo worried that the “one-size-fits-all solution” could have unintended consequences.</p> <p>Adams, however, has argued, “While institutional knowledge is valuable, a reasonable term limit for Community Board members will allow the best of both worlds: institutional knowledge and new voices.”</p> <p>On expanding the campaign finance system, however, only Adams and Oddo have publicly opposed the question among the borough presidents, though for different reasons. “[Brooklyn BP Adams] opposes the campaign finance reform measure because it doesn’t go far enough as he believes in 100 percent public financing,” said an Adams spokesperson. Oddo, on the other hand, has been a staunch opponent of public financing and simply said, “Hell no!” about proposal one.</p> <p>Spokespeople for Katz and Diaz Jr. did not respond to requests for comment about the campaign finance reform proposal.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8000-brewer-creates-committee-to-oppose-charter-revision-proposals" target="_blank">Brewer Creates Committee to Oppose Charter Revision Proposals</a>]</p> <p>Comptroller Scott Stringer also opposes the second and third questions while supporting the first on campaign finance reform. “The City must take a serious look at our Charter — it’s critical to tackling the important issues facing New Yorkers,” he said in a statement. Stringer has laid out his own exhaustive plan of charter proposals to the 2019 charter commission, a separate one from the mayor’s that was created through City Council legislation that is taking a far broader look at the city’s governing principles.&nbsp;</p> <p>Stringer added, “I support the first initiative because we need a campaign finance system that does everything it can to engage New Yorkers and help people run for office. I oppose proposals 2 and 3 which will weaken communities’ voices in shaping their own development.”</p> <p>At an October 31 news conference at City Hall, Gotham Gazette asked Speaker Johnson if he would urge the 2019 commission to reverse community board term limits if they should pass. Johnson said he would not. "I think it's important to lice by the will of the voters," he said. &nbsp;</p> <p>A spokesperson for Public Advocate Letitia James did not provide her stances despite multiple requests for comment, one of which was acknowledged.</p> <p>Among a few rank-and-file City Council Members, reception of the proposals seems to be mixed. Council Member Brad Lander, a Brooklyn Democrat, for example, supports all three proposals and has in particular been advocating for the creation of the civic engagement commission -- Lander had proposed the idea through legislation and presented it to the commission.</p> <p>“I truly believe these ballot proposals give us an opportunity to do something important to strengthen our local democracy: To improve our campaign finance rules. To turbo-charge civic engagement. To expand participatory budgeting city-wide,” he said in an email blast to supporters, calling on New Yorkers to pledge their support.</p> <p>Manhattan Council Member Ben Kallos, also a Democrat, is backing all the proposals as well. Kallos has been a staunch campaign finance reform advocate and the first question would partially achieve what he has in the past tried to do through legislation, to expand the amount of public funds given to candidates running for office. “Democracy in New York City will finally get better,” he said in a September 6 statement, if the first question is passed, “reducing contribution limits and making small dollars more valuable by matching more of them with a greater multiplier.”</p> <p>City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, a Queens Democrat, is also <a href="https://twitter.com/JimmyVanBramer/status/1057284940314918913" target="_blank" rel="noopener">urging a "yes" vote</a> on all three proposals. City Council Member Jumaane Williams, a Brooklyn Democrat, has expressed support for the campaign finance proposal, but a spokesperson did not respond to a request for his positions on the other two.</p> <p>On the other end, there’s Council Member Helen Rosenthal, again a Manhattan Democrat, who opposes all three measures. “The spirit of the first two proposals is positive and some of the substance is even promising, but each raises significant concerns to the point where I cannot support them,” she said in a statement to Gotham Gazette. Also noting a criticism that was raised when the mayor first announced his commission, she added, “Of course, all three proposals could be implemented through the current legislative process.”</p> <p>Even government reform groups appear somewhat split on the ballot proposals. Reinvent Albany is advocating for all three. “Reinvent Albany believes a YES vote on these ballot measures will collectively amplify the voice of everyday New Yorkers and create new opportunities for injecting fresh perspectives into the public debate over how to make our city better for everyone,” the group said in an email blast on Monday.</p> <p>Citizens Union, another good government advocacy organization <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/ny-pol-citizens-union-charter-revision-questions-20181024-story.html">opposes</a> the proposal for a civic engagement commission, supports community board term limits, and has not taken a position on the campaign finance question.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - This article has been updated with additional comment from City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Council Members Jimmy Van Bramer and Jumaane Williams. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p>
Brewer Creates Committee to Oppose Charter Revision Proposals 2018-10-16T04:00:00+00:00 2018-10-16T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8000-brewer-creates-committee-to-oppose-charter-revision-proposals Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/brewer_de_blasio_bill_signing.jpg" alt="brewer de blasio bill signing" width="600" height="398" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio &amp; BP Brewer (photo: Brewer's office)</p> <hr /> <p>Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer is forming an independent expenditure committee to try to defeat two public referenda on the November general election ballot that would impose term limits on community board members and create a new citywide civic engagement agency under the control of the mayor’s office.</p> <p>Last month, the charter revision commission created by Mayor Bill de Blasio approved three ballot questions to present to voters on November 6. The first would significantly reduce campaign contribution limits and make small but significant enhancements to the Campaign Finance Board’s public matching funds program, which incentivizes small-dollar fundraising. Brewer has not taken a position on that proposal.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7912-mayoral-charter-revision-commission-puts-three-questions-on-november-ballot" target="_blank">Mayoral Charter Revision Commission Puts Three Questions on November Ballot]</a></p> <p>On the other two questions, however, the Manhattan borough president is ardently opposed, and is mobilizing people and money to persuade New York City voters to defeat them.</p> <p>Question two creates a centralized Civic Engagement Commission, with a majority of members appointed by the mayor, to coordinate citywide efforts on participatory budgeting, community engagement, and to provide technical assistance to the city’s 59 community boards.</p> <p>Question three, the most controversial of the proposals, would limit the number of terms community board members can serve while also reforming the recruitment and appointment process that borough presidents use to fill board rosters.</p> <p>Brewer insists both those questions are misguided, and is forming a committee called “Vote No on 2 &amp; 3” to campaign against them.&nbsp;</p> <p>“These proposals would be a real—and in some cases dangerous—disruption to the way Community Boards protect our communities,” she wrote in an email blast to supporters from her personal email account, soliciting funds for the incipient committee and urging recipients to spread the word. (Elected officials are not allowed to advocate for or against ballot proposals in their official capacity under state law and per guidance from the Conflicts of Interest Board.)</p> <p>Though the committee does not yet seem to be registered with the state Board of Elections, a sign-up web page declares that it is “an official NYS independent expenditure committee, made up of volunteers, some belonging to Community Boards and some not, who think Proposals 2 &amp; 3 are bad news for neighborhoods and a giveaway to developers and City Hall.” Asked for clarification, a spokesperson for the committee did not respond.</p> <p>Brewer argues, as have other opponents, that community board term limits would lead to a brain drain of experienced and engaged community board members to the benefit of lobbyists and developers looking to exploit communities without facing pushback. In particular, she said, community board members with know-how on complicated land use and zoning issues would be kicked out.</p> <p>“It would have the effect of allowing developers and their lawyers—who are never term limited!—to dominate development negotiations, because those long-time members will be gone,” Brewer wrote. “And on long-term city projects like street redesign or sustainability, newly-appointed community board members would have little influence over long-term projects. Every Board’s institutional memory would be wiped out.”</p> <p>In a statement, Matt Gewolb, executive director of the charter commission, emphasized the testimony received from across the five boroughs, urging the commission to make community boards more diverse, reflective of the neighborhoods they serve, and to give them additional resources. “The Commission's proposals are designed in response to this community input,” he said. “As the Commission has described in its reports, the proposal seeks to strike a reasonable balance between retaining valuable institutional knowledge and providing opportunities for new voices to have a seat at the table.”</p> <p>Brewer, however, insisted that the proposal is “redundant” since the borough presidents and City Council members that apppoint community board members are themselves limited to serving two terms each. She also took issue with the proposed duties that the Civic Engagement Commission would have in assisting community boards, seeing it as an encroachment on the powers of the borough presidents who currently perform those roles.</p> <p>The Manhattan borough president isn’t alone in her opposition. Of the five borough presidents, only Brooklyn’s Eric Adams has come out in support of community board term limits, which supporters say would diversify the boards, providing more representation for younger people and people of color. The other three -- Ruben Diaz Jr. in the Bronx, Melinda Katz in Queens, and Staten Island’s James Oddo -- all oppose the second and third questions.</p> <p>In a statement through a spokesperson, Adams said, “This is what democracy is all about. I applaud my colleague and friend Borough President Brewer for making her voice heard.”</p> <p>Brewer ended her appeal by urging supporters to vote against the two proposals and also to testify against them at several forums scheduled over the next week by the charter commission to educate voters. Last month, she also took her message to the 2019 charter revision commission, urging it to reverse the mayor’s commission’s proposals if they are approved by voters. “Community Boards are our first line of offense in promoting neighborhood planning and our first line of defense in protecting neighborhoods from developers who seek only maximum profit from their work in our communities,” she said at the September 27 hearing of the commission that will put proposals on next year’s general election ballot, and on which she appointed one member as part of a process created by legislation she and Public Advocate Letitia James moved through the City Council.</p> <p>Asked last week about the possibility that the 2019 commission could negate the mayor’s commission’s work, mayoral spokesperson Seth Stein said in an email, “We’re not going to predict what the Council Commission will do, and will review any proposals.”</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Read:&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7912-mayoral-charter-revision-commission-puts-three-questions-on-november-ballot">Mayoral Charter Revision Commission Puts Three Questions on November Ballot]</a></p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - this article has been updated.&nbsp;</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/brewer_de_blasio_bill_signing.jpg" alt="brewer de blasio bill signing" width="600" height="398" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio &amp; BP Brewer (photo: Brewer's office)</p> <hr /> <p>Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer is forming an independent expenditure committee to try to defeat two public referenda on the November general election ballot that would impose term limits on community board members and create a new citywide civic engagement agency under the control of the mayor’s office.</p> <p>Last month, the charter revision commission created by Mayor Bill de Blasio approved three ballot questions to present to voters on November 6. The first would significantly reduce campaign contribution limits and make small but significant enhancements to the Campaign Finance Board’s public matching funds program, which incentivizes small-dollar fundraising. Brewer has not taken a position on that proposal.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7912-mayoral-charter-revision-commission-puts-three-questions-on-november-ballot" target="_blank">Mayoral Charter Revision Commission Puts Three Questions on November Ballot]</a></p> <p>On the other two questions, however, the Manhattan borough president is ardently opposed, and is mobilizing people and money to persuade New York City voters to defeat them.</p> <p>Question two creates a centralized Civic Engagement Commission, with a majority of members appointed by the mayor, to coordinate citywide efforts on participatory budgeting, community engagement, and to provide technical assistance to the city’s 59 community boards.</p> <p>Question three, the most controversial of the proposals, would limit the number of terms community board members can serve while also reforming the recruitment and appointment process that borough presidents use to fill board rosters.</p> <p>Brewer insists both those questions are misguided, and is forming a committee called “Vote No on 2 &amp; 3” to campaign against them.&nbsp;</p> <p>“These proposals would be a real—and in some cases dangerous—disruption to the way Community Boards protect our communities,” she wrote in an email blast to supporters from her personal email account, soliciting funds for the incipient committee and urging recipients to spread the word. (Elected officials are not allowed to advocate for or against ballot proposals in their official capacity under state law and per guidance from the Conflicts of Interest Board.)</p> <p>Though the committee does not yet seem to be registered with the state Board of Elections, a sign-up web page declares that it is “an official NYS independent expenditure committee, made up of volunteers, some belonging to Community Boards and some not, who think Proposals 2 &amp; 3 are bad news for neighborhoods and a giveaway to developers and City Hall.” Asked for clarification, a spokesperson for the committee did not respond.</p> <p>Brewer argues, as have other opponents, that community board term limits would lead to a brain drain of experienced and engaged community board members to the benefit of lobbyists and developers looking to exploit communities without facing pushback. In particular, she said, community board members with know-how on complicated land use and zoning issues would be kicked out.</p> <p>“It would have the effect of allowing developers and their lawyers—who are never term limited!—to dominate development negotiations, because those long-time members will be gone,” Brewer wrote. “And on long-term city projects like street redesign or sustainability, newly-appointed community board members would have little influence over long-term projects. Every Board’s institutional memory would be wiped out.”</p> <p>In a statement, Matt Gewolb, executive director of the charter commission, emphasized the testimony received from across the five boroughs, urging the commission to make community boards more diverse, reflective of the neighborhoods they serve, and to give them additional resources. “The Commission's proposals are designed in response to this community input,” he said. “As the Commission has described in its reports, the proposal seeks to strike a reasonable balance between retaining valuable institutional knowledge and providing opportunities for new voices to have a seat at the table.”</p> <p>Brewer, however, insisted that the proposal is “redundant” since the borough presidents and City Council members that apppoint community board members are themselves limited to serving two terms each. She also took issue with the proposed duties that the Civic Engagement Commission would have in assisting community boards, seeing it as an encroachment on the powers of the borough presidents who currently perform those roles.</p> <p>The Manhattan borough president isn’t alone in her opposition. Of the five borough presidents, only Brooklyn’s Eric Adams has come out in support of community board term limits, which supporters say would diversify the boards, providing more representation for younger people and people of color. The other three -- Ruben Diaz Jr. in the Bronx, Melinda Katz in Queens, and Staten Island’s James Oddo -- all oppose the second and third questions.</p> <p>In a statement through a spokesperson, Adams said, “This is what democracy is all about. I applaud my colleague and friend Borough President Brewer for making her voice heard.”</p> <p>Brewer ended her appeal by urging supporters to vote against the two proposals and also to testify against them at several forums scheduled over the next week by the charter commission to educate voters. Last month, she also took her message to the 2019 charter revision commission, urging it to reverse the mayor’s commission’s proposals if they are approved by voters. “Community Boards are our first line of offense in promoting neighborhood planning and our first line of defense in protecting neighborhoods from developers who seek only maximum profit from their work in our communities,” she said at the September 27 hearing of the commission that will put proposals on next year’s general election ballot, and on which she appointed one member as part of a process created by legislation she and Public Advocate Letitia James moved through the City Council.</p> <p>Asked last week about the possibility that the 2019 commission could negate the mayor’s commission’s work, mayoral spokesperson Seth Stein said in an email, “We’re not going to predict what the Council Commission will do, and will review any proposals.”</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Read:&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7912-mayoral-charter-revision-commission-puts-three-questions-on-november-ballot">Mayoral Charter Revision Commission Puts Three Questions on November Ballot]</a></p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - this article has been updated.&nbsp;</p>
Elected Officials Present Broad Proposals to 2019 Charter Revision Commission 2018-10-11T04:00:00+00:00 2018-10-11T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7990-elected-officials-present-broad-proposals-to-2019-charter-revision-commission Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/stringer_charter_testimony.jpg" alt="stringer charter testimony" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Comptroller Stringer testifies at the 2019 Charter Revision Commission (photo: @NYCComptroller)</p> <hr /> <p>The charter revision commission created through New York City Council legislation concluded its first round of public hearings last month, receiving dozens of suggestions about improving the functions and structure of city government. Unlike the commission established by Mayor Bill de Blasio, which has three proposals on this November’s ballot, the Council-created commission is set to propose changes to the city’s central governing document via the 2019 election.</p> <p>Among those who testified at the 2019 commission’s initial hearings were several elected officials who presented their own broad proposals that could significantly change how the city conducts its business and how those who hold power can wield it. They included City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Comptroller Scott Stringer, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Staten Island Borough President James Oddo, and several City Council members from the five boroughs.</p> <p>Johnson -- who appointed the commission’s chair Gail Benjamin, the former head of the Council’s land use division, and three other members -- sees in the commission an opportunity to fix the balance of power in the city, which tilts toward the mayoralty and at times can diminish the oversight and accountability role played by the 51-member Council.</p> <p>In testimony at the September 27 hearing held at City Hall, Johnson noted the Council’s limited ability to review mayoral appointees to head city agencies, and that the body cannot remove an agency head. He also suggested that the commission examine whether the budgets for certain offices “which are uncertain and subject to political considerations as opposed to substantive need, should be fixed or independently set.”</p> <p>Johnson also recommended the commission look at the structure of the Law Department and the Corporation Counsel. “One lawyer attempting to serve two separate branches of government is an invitation for confusion and disruption and may not be in the best interests of the City,” his testimony reads, in reference to representation of both the executive and legislative branches of city government, an issue that has come to the fore as Council members have sought to join a lawsuit against the city’s property tax system.</p> <p>Johnson is also pushing for changes to the city’s budget process to give the Council a greater voice and to tie budget allocations more closely to city programs, and also argued in favor of instant runoff voting, also known as ranked choice voting.</p> <p>The most sweeping reforms that Johnson proposed, however, deal with the city’s land use process, which is almost always contentious and has been recently as Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration has moved to rezone several neighborhoods -- mostly low-income, communities of color -- to increase density and create more affordable housing. Johnson and other members of the Council’s Progressive Caucus have advocated for a citywide planning framework that gives communities greater say in land use decisions and balances equity with development. They have also called for an independent City Planning Commission, as opposed to the one currently composed largely of mayoral appointees. Council Members Diana Ayala, who co-chairs the caucus, Keith Powers, a vice co-chair, Brad Lander, and Adrienne Adams each testified on those proposals at separate borough hearings. “The status quo of ad hoc planning is just not working…We need a larger vision based on equity, a vision in which low-income communities do not have to slowly bear the brunt of the city’s every housing and infrastructure need,” Ayala <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7932-2019-charter-revision-commission-holds-first-public-hearing" target="_blank">said at a September 12 hearing</a> in the Bronx.</p> <p>Those goals are also in line with a <a href="http://library.rpa.org/pdf/Inclusive-City-NYC.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">report released in January</a> by the Regional Planning Association, a prominent think tank, in partnership with community advocacy groups, academic experts and partners in city government. The RPA report, titled “<a href="http://library.rpa.org/pdf/Inclusive-City-NYC.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Inclusive City</a>”, was also presented to the charter commission and cited by elected officials, including Brewer, who also testified at the Sept. 27 hearing. Brewer, along with Public Advocate Letitia James, was the driver behind the legislation that created the commission and has expressed hope that it can bring a sea change the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the 1989 charter commission fundamentally altered the structure of city government, giving it its present form.</p> <p>In her testimony, Brewer emphasized a more thoughtful process for land use decisions that includes early input from community boards and elected officials before applications are certified through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). “With pre-planning we can do more than merely react—we can shape a project,” she said.</p> <p>She also pushed for more technical improvements to zoning and permitting procedures, in the context of a long-term citywide approach. “There needs to be a citywide comprehensive plan every ten years,” she said. “This planning process could distribute new development equitably across the city, rather than concentrate rezonings in communities of color.”</p> <p>Similar to Johnson’s testimony, Brewer advocated for increased transparency in the city budget. She also said the Civilian Complaint Review Board should be strengthened and its budget tied to the NYPD’s, to ensure that the watchdog agency has sufficient resources to deal with a growing police body. Additionally, she noted her opposition to term limits for community boards, which have been proposed in a ballot question by the mayor’s commission. Borough presidents appoint most community board members.</p> <p>Comptroller Stringer’s ideas, in number at least, outpaced other elected officials. In an <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/reports/a-new-charter-to-confront-new-challenges/overview/?utm_source=Media-All&amp;utm_campaign=dd88068c66-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_12_08_COPY_01&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_term=0_7cd514b03e-dd88068c66-154020809" target="_blank" rel="noopener">exhaustive report</a> presented at the City Hall hearing, Stringer recommended 65 revisions to the charter ranging from proposals on city budgeting and procurement to housing, cybersecurity, children’s services, campaign finance and voting reforms.</p> <p>“Since the last major charter revision nearly thirty years ago, New York City has grown by 1.2 million people and the world has changed around it, yet its charter is not prepared to meet the needs of today’s challenges,” Stringer said in a statement. “The Charter Review Commission is an opportunity for us to build a better government that takes aim at our affordability crisis and builds a fairer city by giving a voice to New Yorkers.”</p> <p>Chief among Stringer’s proposals was a push for a Chief Diversity Officer in the mayor’s office and in each city agency, to ensure diversity in hiring and in contracting. Stringer has advocated for increased investment in Minority- and Women-Owned Business Enterprises (M/WBEs) and he noted that though New York City spends nearly $20 billion on goods and services each year, less than 5 percent of the contracts are given to M/WBEs.</p> <p>He also proposed a new Office of Inspection independent of the Department of Buildings and the Housing and Preservation Department, which he said play conflicting roles since they both approve new construction and development and are also charged with enforcing housing and construction codes. In line with his role as the city’s chief fiscal officer, Stringer also pushed for reforms to the capital budget, which funds infrastructure projects in the city. He said it should be transparent enough so the public can identify the cost of specific projects and be informed when those costs change.</p> <p>Several other City Council members also weighed in on proposed charter revisions.</p> <p>Council Member Ben Kallos, also co-chair of the Progressive Caucus, proposed 72 ideas in total, in updated testimony, including a citizen “Bill of Rights to free higher education, affordable health and mental health care, and, access to parks, libraries, public transit and affordable internet.” He stressed that any revisions to the charter brought about through a ballot referendum should go through further changes only after being presented to voters again. He pushed to give the Council and borough presidents the ability to make appointments to mayoral boards that have land use authority and said the charter should be amended to allow city residents to propose legislation and be heard before the Council. “Our City’s Charter is truly a living document,” he said in a statement, “but it is up to us to make sure it remains alive.”</p> <p>Council Member Helen Rosenthal pushed for the charter to formally adopt the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against<br />Women (CEDAW), and also advocated for reforms to the city's contracting process to ease burdensome requirements on non-profits that provide early childhood<br />education, homeless services, senior services, and mental healthcare.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>At the September 20 hearing in Queens, Council Members Adams and Francisco Moya, who is not a Progressive Caucus member, supported improvements to ULURP. “Displacement in our neighborhoods is no longer a possibility but a fact of life,” Moya said, according to written testimony. He called for the charter to mandate assessments of displacement brought about by proposed development. “We cannot view our city and its neighborhoods in a vacuum,” Moya said.</p> <p>There were, of course, elected officials with more borough-specific agendas. At the September 24 hearing on Staten Island, testimony by Borough President James Oddo, and Council Members Steven Matteo and Joseph Borelli (all three Republicans, unlike all of the other aforementioned officials, who are Democrats), advocated for greater freedom for the borough from “bureaucrats in Manhattan,” as Oddo and Matteo put it.</p> <p>Oddo and Matteo, in submitted testimony, said that city agencies should be restructured to give borough commissioners more power over local issues. “Agencies should be restructured in such a way that the chain of command within the agency is clear, and that one individual on the local level is not only responsible and accountable, but specifically empowered within the agency to act,” they wrote.</p> <p>Borelli similarly pushed for more decentralization of power, expressing concern that the priorities of Staten Islanders are often ignored by city government and that new changes to the charter could adversely affect the borough. “We don’t want to be laboratories for the latest experiments in social engineering as too often seems the case on issues ranging from buses to composting,” he said. He largely argued for giving the borough president greater jurisdiction over local issues, similar to a county executive outside New York City.</p> <p>He also criticized the city’s public matching funds program for campaign financing, calling on the commission to negate the potential expansion of the program that could happen through a ballot proposal put forward by the mayor’s commission. And, he advanced several other proposals -- mandating that the Independent Budget Office study the fiscal impact of every piece of City Council legislation; reducing duplicative roles played by different city agencies; making it harder to raise taxes in the city; improving the process for holding special elections; and curbing the power of the Board of Standards and Appeals.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - This article has been updated to include testimony from Council Member Helen Rosenthal and updated testimony from Council Member Ben Kallos. &nbsp;</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/stringer_charter_testimony.jpg" alt="stringer charter testimony" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Comptroller Stringer testifies at the 2019 Charter Revision Commission (photo: @NYCComptroller)</p> <hr /> <p>The charter revision commission created through New York City Council legislation concluded its first round of public hearings last month, receiving dozens of suggestions about improving the functions and structure of city government. Unlike the commission established by Mayor Bill de Blasio, which has three proposals on this November’s ballot, the Council-created commission is set to propose changes to the city’s central governing document via the 2019 election.</p> <p>Among those who testified at the 2019 commission’s initial hearings were several elected officials who presented their own broad proposals that could significantly change how the city conducts its business and how those who hold power can wield it. They included City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Comptroller Scott Stringer, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Staten Island Borough President James Oddo, and several City Council members from the five boroughs.</p> <p>Johnson -- who appointed the commission’s chair Gail Benjamin, the former head of the Council’s land use division, and three other members -- sees in the commission an opportunity to fix the balance of power in the city, which tilts toward the mayoralty and at times can diminish the oversight and accountability role played by the 51-member Council.</p> <p>In testimony at the September 27 hearing held at City Hall, Johnson noted the Council’s limited ability to review mayoral appointees to head city agencies, and that the body cannot remove an agency head. He also suggested that the commission examine whether the budgets for certain offices “which are uncertain and subject to political considerations as opposed to substantive need, should be fixed or independently set.”</p> <p>Johnson also recommended the commission look at the structure of the Law Department and the Corporation Counsel. “One lawyer attempting to serve two separate branches of government is an invitation for confusion and disruption and may not be in the best interests of the City,” his testimony reads, in reference to representation of both the executive and legislative branches of city government, an issue that has come to the fore as Council members have sought to join a lawsuit against the city’s property tax system.</p> <p>Johnson is also pushing for changes to the city’s budget process to give the Council a greater voice and to tie budget allocations more closely to city programs, and also argued in favor of instant runoff voting, also known as ranked choice voting.</p> <p>The most sweeping reforms that Johnson proposed, however, deal with the city’s land use process, which is almost always contentious and has been recently as Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration has moved to rezone several neighborhoods -- mostly low-income, communities of color -- to increase density and create more affordable housing. Johnson and other members of the Council’s Progressive Caucus have advocated for a citywide planning framework that gives communities greater say in land use decisions and balances equity with development. They have also called for an independent City Planning Commission, as opposed to the one currently composed largely of mayoral appointees. Council Members Diana Ayala, who co-chairs the caucus, Keith Powers, a vice co-chair, Brad Lander, and Adrienne Adams each testified on those proposals at separate borough hearings. “The status quo of ad hoc planning is just not working…We need a larger vision based on equity, a vision in which low-income communities do not have to slowly bear the brunt of the city’s every housing and infrastructure need,” Ayala <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7932-2019-charter-revision-commission-holds-first-public-hearing" target="_blank">said at a September 12 hearing</a> in the Bronx.</p> <p>Those goals are also in line with a <a href="http://library.rpa.org/pdf/Inclusive-City-NYC.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">report released in January</a> by the Regional Planning Association, a prominent think tank, in partnership with community advocacy groups, academic experts and partners in city government. The RPA report, titled “<a href="http://library.rpa.org/pdf/Inclusive-City-NYC.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Inclusive City</a>”, was also presented to the charter commission and cited by elected officials, including Brewer, who also testified at the Sept. 27 hearing. Brewer, along with Public Advocate Letitia James, was the driver behind the legislation that created the commission and has expressed hope that it can bring a sea change the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the 1989 charter commission fundamentally altered the structure of city government, giving it its present form.</p> <p>In her testimony, Brewer emphasized a more thoughtful process for land use decisions that includes early input from community boards and elected officials before applications are certified through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). “With pre-planning we can do more than merely react—we can shape a project,” she said.</p> <p>She also pushed for more technical improvements to zoning and permitting procedures, in the context of a long-term citywide approach. “There needs to be a citywide comprehensive plan every ten years,” she said. “This planning process could distribute new development equitably across the city, rather than concentrate rezonings in communities of color.”</p> <p>Similar to Johnson’s testimony, Brewer advocated for increased transparency in the city budget. She also said the Civilian Complaint Review Board should be strengthened and its budget tied to the NYPD’s, to ensure that the watchdog agency has sufficient resources to deal with a growing police body. Additionally, she noted her opposition to term limits for community boards, which have been proposed in a ballot question by the mayor’s commission. Borough presidents appoint most community board members.</p> <p>Comptroller Stringer’s ideas, in number at least, outpaced other elected officials. In an <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/reports/a-new-charter-to-confront-new-challenges/overview/?utm_source=Media-All&amp;utm_campaign=dd88068c66-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_12_08_COPY_01&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_term=0_7cd514b03e-dd88068c66-154020809" target="_blank" rel="noopener">exhaustive report</a> presented at the City Hall hearing, Stringer recommended 65 revisions to the charter ranging from proposals on city budgeting and procurement to housing, cybersecurity, children’s services, campaign finance and voting reforms.</p> <p>“Since the last major charter revision nearly thirty years ago, New York City has grown by 1.2 million people and the world has changed around it, yet its charter is not prepared to meet the needs of today’s challenges,” Stringer said in a statement. “The Charter Review Commission is an opportunity for us to build a better government that takes aim at our affordability crisis and builds a fairer city by giving a voice to New Yorkers.”</p> <p>Chief among Stringer’s proposals was a push for a Chief Diversity Officer in the mayor’s office and in each city agency, to ensure diversity in hiring and in contracting. Stringer has advocated for increased investment in Minority- and Women-Owned Business Enterprises (M/WBEs) and he noted that though New York City spends nearly $20 billion on goods and services each year, less than 5 percent of the contracts are given to M/WBEs.</p> <p>He also proposed a new Office of Inspection independent of the Department of Buildings and the Housing and Preservation Department, which he said play conflicting roles since they both approve new construction and development and are also charged with enforcing housing and construction codes. In line with his role as the city’s chief fiscal officer, Stringer also pushed for reforms to the capital budget, which funds infrastructure projects in the city. He said it should be transparent enough so the public can identify the cost of specific projects and be informed when those costs change.</p> <p>Several other City Council members also weighed in on proposed charter revisions.</p> <p>Council Member Ben Kallos, also co-chair of the Progressive Caucus, proposed 72 ideas in total, in updated testimony, including a citizen “Bill of Rights to free higher education, affordable health and mental health care, and, access to parks, libraries, public transit and affordable internet.” He stressed that any revisions to the charter brought about through a ballot referendum should go through further changes only after being presented to voters again. He pushed to give the Council and borough presidents the ability to make appointments to mayoral boards that have land use authority and said the charter should be amended to allow city residents to propose legislation and be heard before the Council. “Our City’s Charter is truly a living document,” he said in a statement, “but it is up to us to make sure it remains alive.”</p> <p>Council Member Helen Rosenthal pushed for the charter to formally adopt the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against<br />Women (CEDAW), and also advocated for reforms to the city's contracting process to ease burdensome requirements on non-profits that provide early childhood<br />education, homeless services, senior services, and mental healthcare.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>At the September 20 hearing in Queens, Council Members Adams and Francisco Moya, who is not a Progressive Caucus member, supported improvements to ULURP. “Displacement in our neighborhoods is no longer a possibility but a fact of life,” Moya said, according to written testimony. He called for the charter to mandate assessments of displacement brought about by proposed development. “We cannot view our city and its neighborhoods in a vacuum,” Moya said.</p> <p>There were, of course, elected officials with more borough-specific agendas. At the September 24 hearing on Staten Island, testimony by Borough President James Oddo, and Council Members Steven Matteo and Joseph Borelli (all three Republicans, unlike all of the other aforementioned officials, who are Democrats), advocated for greater freedom for the borough from “bureaucrats in Manhattan,” as Oddo and Matteo put it.</p> <p>Oddo and Matteo, in submitted testimony, said that city agencies should be restructured to give borough commissioners more power over local issues. “Agencies should be restructured in such a way that the chain of command within the agency is clear, and that one individual on the local level is not only responsible and accountable, but specifically empowered within the agency to act,” they wrote.</p> <p>Borelli similarly pushed for more decentralization of power, expressing concern that the priorities of Staten Islanders are often ignored by city government and that new changes to the charter could adversely affect the borough. “We don’t want to be laboratories for the latest experiments in social engineering as too often seems the case on issues ranging from buses to composting,” he said. He largely argued for giving the borough president greater jurisdiction over local issues, similar to a county executive outside New York City.</p> <p>He also criticized the city’s public matching funds program for campaign financing, calling on the commission to negate the potential expansion of the program that could happen through a ballot proposal put forward by the mayor’s commission. And, he advanced several other proposals -- mandating that the Independent Budget Office study the fiscal impact of every piece of City Council legislation; reducing duplicative roles played by different city agencies; making it harder to raise taxes in the city; improving the process for holding special elections; and curbing the power of the Board of Standards and Appeals.</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - This article has been updated to include testimony from Council Member Helen Rosenthal and updated testimony from Council Member Ben Kallos. &nbsp;</p>
City Council Charter Revision Commission Takes Shape 2018-07-09T04:00:00+00:00 2018-07-09T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7795-city-council-charter-revision-commission-takes-shape Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/gg-city-council-hearing-committee.jpg" alt="gg city council hearing committee" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>(Sofie Hecht/Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p>The New York City Council’s commission to review the city charter -- a separate effort from an existing commission created by Mayor Bill de Blasio -- has been fully appointed and is set to begin its work next Monday, July 16.</p> <p>The City Council passed a bill in April, spearheaded by Public Advocate Letitia James, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, and Council Speaker Corey Johnson, to create a commission to analyze the city’s governing document and recommend potentially significant changes to the structure and functions of city government. Although any such commission is allowed to consider the entire composition of the city charter, Brewer, James, and Johnson have pointed to a few broad priority areas including improving the city’s land use policies, strengthening the City Council’s ‘advise and consent’ role in approving mayoral appointees to city agencies and commissions, enhancing the Council’s power over city budgeting, and implementing stronger oversight of the mayoral administration.</p> <p>At a <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7547-city-council-hears-bill-on-charter-revision-commission" target="_blank" rel="noopener">March 17 hearing</a> on the bill, James emphasized that the commission could achieve groundbreaking improvements similar to the 1989 charter commission that upended the entire structure of city government. She contrasted it with the mayor’s approach, which she said suffers from “predetermined conclusions, a narrow focus on issues within Council authority, and a timeline far too tight to do the job right.”</p> <p>The Council’s commission, composed of 15 members, is meant to carry out its work over the next 16 months, presenting ballot referenda to voters during the November 2019 general election. The mayor’s commission, created by de Blasio through an executive order, has a shorter timeline and a narrower brief, and will be proposing its own recommendations on Election Day this year.</p> <p>The Council commission’s members include four appointees of the speaker, including the chair, four mayoral appointees, and one each chosen by the public advocate, the comptroller, and the five borough presidents.</p> <p>Johnson picked Gail Benjamin, the former director of the Council’s land use division, to serve as commission chair. His other appointees include Lilliam Barrios-Paoli, a former de Blasio deputy mayor and the former chair of NYC Health+Hospitals, the city’s municipal hospital system; Rev. Clinton Miller, pastor at Brown Memorial Baptist Church; and Merryl Tisch, the former chancellor of the state Board of Regents and current vice chair of the SUNY board of trustees.</p> <p>“The appointment of these members of the Charter Revision Commission is the first step towards bringing the City Charter into the 21st century,” said Johnson in a statement announcing the full commission. “All of these individuals represent civic engagement at its best, and I am so grateful for the time they are giving to make our city a better place…The City Charter is in good hands.”</p> <p>In a phone interview, Benjamin said she was "excited" about leading the commission. "This is kind of the culmination of my career as a government official,” she said. Benjamin drew a distinction between the work she will oversee and that of the mayor's commission, which is expected to release its preliminary report soon.&nbsp;“This commission has a much broader mandate than the mayor gave to his commission and I think that all of the 15 members who have been appointed are excited about the broadness of the mandate and the ability to really examine how this city functions governmentally and what we can do to move it into the future," she said. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Though the two commissions will not overlap substantially, Benjamin said the Council's commission will review the testimony presented to the mayor's commission, as well as the reports and testimony from every commission convened since 1989. "There are lots of issues that [the mayor's] commission, I don’t think, has had the time to really flesh out," she said, citing city procurement practices, non-citizen voting and instant run-off voting as a few examples. "I would think that we would want to look at those kinds of issues also and that we’ll have the time to do that because we’ve got over a year and not just a few months," Benjamin said.&nbsp;</p> <p>Mayor de Blasio mostly plucked his Council commission appointees from his own administration. Among them are Lisette Camilo, the commissioner of the Department of Citywide Administrative Services; Paula Gavin, the city’s Chief Service Officer who heads up NYC Service, the agency tasked with promoting volunteering efforts; Lindsay Greene, a senior advisor to Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen; and former City Planning chief Carl Weisbrod, currently a de Blasio appointee to the MTA board.</p> <p>Most other elected officials had already announced their selections to the commission or had quietly appointed members with little publicity. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>In late May, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams chose former City Council Member and repeat mayoral contender Sal Albanese to represent him, citing Albanese’s outspoken positions on campaign finance reform. “I have called for, and am reiterating again now, for 100 percent publicly-financed campaigns where every candidate has an equal footing to express their ideas,” Adams had written in testimony at the March hearing before the Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations, which was considering the charter commission bill. “Fully publicly-financed elections will see more women running for office at a time when representation in the City Council has decreased since our last election. Fully publicly-financed campaigns have shown to increase minority participation in elected politics. A fully-funded system also takes away the quid pro quo corruption and will help restore faith in our electoral system.”</p> <p>Albanese, in a statement accompanying his appointment, said, “Charter revision is an opportunity to make our government more democratic and responsive to its citizens.” During his 2017 primary challenge to de Blasio, Albanese’s top policy plank was the “democracy vouchers” program that would drastically reduce the influence of private money in municipal elections.</p> <p>Last month, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. appointed former City Council Member James Vacca to the commission. “Jimmy has a wealth of experience in government and cares deeply about our borough and our city,” Diaz Jr. <a href="https://twitter.com/rubendiazjr/status/1005117342802640896?s=21" target="_blank" rel="noopener">tweeted</a> at the time.</p> <p>More recently, Public Advocate Letitia James tapped Sateesh Nori, a Legal Aid Society attorney, as her representative on the commission. “Mr. Nori brings with him the wisdom and expertise necessary for the role, as well as a lifelong commitment to public service and to his City,” James said in a statement. Comptroller Scott Stringer’s pick was Alison Hirsh, the vice president of 32BJ SEIU, the prominent property services workers union.</p> <p>Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer chose her general counsel and director of land use, James Caras, to serve as her representative. “After three decades, it’s time for a thorough, expert review of how our City Charter is serving New Yorkers and how to make our government work better,” Brewer said in Monday’s announcement.</p> <p>Queens Borough President Melinda Katz picked Eduardo Cordero Sr. And Staten Island Borough President James Oddo’s choice is Richmond County Clerk Stephen Fiala, who was previously a City Council member.</p> <p>While the Council-created commission is about to begin its work and will take an extended timeline before its ballot proposals are announced next year, the mayoral charter revision commission is in the final two months before it makes its recommendations public by early September, in time to be included on the November ballot. That commission recently made clear its areas of focus -- voting and election reform, campaign finance reform, land use decision-making, community boards, civic engagement, and independent redistricting -- <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/charter-revision-commission" target="_blank" rel="noopener">and held relevant expert hearings</a>.</p> <p>[Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7780-chair-says-charter-commission-will-step-in-where-politics-has-slowed-reform" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Chair Says Mayoral Charter Commission Will Step In Where Politics Has Slowed Reform</a>]</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/gg-city-council-hearing-committee.jpg" alt="gg city council hearing committee" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>(Sofie Hecht/Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p>The New York City Council’s commission to review the city charter -- a separate effort from an existing commission created by Mayor Bill de Blasio -- has been fully appointed and is set to begin its work next Monday, July 16.</p> <p>The City Council passed a bill in April, spearheaded by Public Advocate Letitia James, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, and Council Speaker Corey Johnson, to create a commission to analyze the city’s governing document and recommend potentially significant changes to the structure and functions of city government. Although any such commission is allowed to consider the entire composition of the city charter, Brewer, James, and Johnson have pointed to a few broad priority areas including improving the city’s land use policies, strengthening the City Council’s ‘advise and consent’ role in approving mayoral appointees to city agencies and commissions, enhancing the Council’s power over city budgeting, and implementing stronger oversight of the mayoral administration.</p> <p>At a <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7547-city-council-hears-bill-on-charter-revision-commission" target="_blank" rel="noopener">March 17 hearing</a> on the bill, James emphasized that the commission could achieve groundbreaking improvements similar to the 1989 charter commission that upended the entire structure of city government. She contrasted it with the mayor’s approach, which she said suffers from “predetermined conclusions, a narrow focus on issues within Council authority, and a timeline far too tight to do the job right.”</p> <p>The Council’s commission, composed of 15 members, is meant to carry out its work over the next 16 months, presenting ballot referenda to voters during the November 2019 general election. The mayor’s commission, created by de Blasio through an executive order, has a shorter timeline and a narrower brief, and will be proposing its own recommendations on Election Day this year.</p> <p>The Council commission’s members include four appointees of the speaker, including the chair, four mayoral appointees, and one each chosen by the public advocate, the comptroller, and the five borough presidents.</p> <p>Johnson picked Gail Benjamin, the former director of the Council’s land use division, to serve as commission chair. His other appointees include Lilliam Barrios-Paoli, a former de Blasio deputy mayor and the former chair of NYC Health+Hospitals, the city’s municipal hospital system; Rev. Clinton Miller, pastor at Brown Memorial Baptist Church; and Merryl Tisch, the former chancellor of the state Board of Regents and current vice chair of the SUNY board of trustees.</p> <p>“The appointment of these members of the Charter Revision Commission is the first step towards bringing the City Charter into the 21st century,” said Johnson in a statement announcing the full commission. “All of these individuals represent civic engagement at its best, and I am so grateful for the time they are giving to make our city a better place…The City Charter is in good hands.”</p> <p>In a phone interview, Benjamin said she was "excited" about leading the commission. "This is kind of the culmination of my career as a government official,” she said. Benjamin drew a distinction between the work she will oversee and that of the mayor's commission, which is expected to release its preliminary report soon.&nbsp;“This commission has a much broader mandate than the mayor gave to his commission and I think that all of the 15 members who have been appointed are excited about the broadness of the mandate and the ability to really examine how this city functions governmentally and what we can do to move it into the future," she said. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Though the two commissions will not overlap substantially, Benjamin said the Council's commission will review the testimony presented to the mayor's commission, as well as the reports and testimony from every commission convened since 1989. "There are lots of issues that [the mayor's] commission, I don’t think, has had the time to really flesh out," she said, citing city procurement practices, non-citizen voting and instant run-off voting as a few examples. "I would think that we would want to look at those kinds of issues also and that we’ll have the time to do that because we’ve got over a year and not just a few months," Benjamin said.&nbsp;</p> <p>Mayor de Blasio mostly plucked his Council commission appointees from his own administration. Among them are Lisette Camilo, the commissioner of the Department of Citywide Administrative Services; Paula Gavin, the city’s Chief Service Officer who heads up NYC Service, the agency tasked with promoting volunteering efforts; Lindsay Greene, a senior advisor to Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen; and former City Planning chief Carl Weisbrod, currently a de Blasio appointee to the MTA board.</p> <p>Most other elected officials had already announced their selections to the commission or had quietly appointed members with little publicity. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>In late May, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams chose former City Council Member and repeat mayoral contender Sal Albanese to represent him, citing Albanese’s outspoken positions on campaign finance reform. “I have called for, and am reiterating again now, for 100 percent publicly-financed campaigns where every candidate has an equal footing to express their ideas,” Adams had written in testimony at the March hearing before the Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations, which was considering the charter commission bill. “Fully publicly-financed elections will see more women running for office at a time when representation in the City Council has decreased since our last election. Fully publicly-financed campaigns have shown to increase minority participation in elected politics. A fully-funded system also takes away the quid pro quo corruption and will help restore faith in our electoral system.”</p> <p>Albanese, in a statement accompanying his appointment, said, “Charter revision is an opportunity to make our government more democratic and responsive to its citizens.” During his 2017 primary challenge to de Blasio, Albanese’s top policy plank was the “democracy vouchers” program that would drastically reduce the influence of private money in municipal elections.</p> <p>Last month, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. appointed former City Council Member James Vacca to the commission. “Jimmy has a wealth of experience in government and cares deeply about our borough and our city,” Diaz Jr. <a href="https://twitter.com/rubendiazjr/status/1005117342802640896?s=21" target="_blank" rel="noopener">tweeted</a> at the time.</p> <p>More recently, Public Advocate Letitia James tapped Sateesh Nori, a Legal Aid Society attorney, as her representative on the commission. “Mr. Nori brings with him the wisdom and expertise necessary for the role, as well as a lifelong commitment to public service and to his City,” James said in a statement. Comptroller Scott Stringer’s pick was Alison Hirsh, the vice president of 32BJ SEIU, the prominent property services workers union.</p> <p>Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer chose her general counsel and director of land use, James Caras, to serve as her representative. “After three decades, it’s time for a thorough, expert review of how our City Charter is serving New Yorkers and how to make our government work better,” Brewer said in Monday’s announcement.</p> <p>Queens Borough President Melinda Katz picked Eduardo Cordero Sr. And Staten Island Borough President James Oddo’s choice is Richmond County Clerk Stephen Fiala, who was previously a City Council member.</p> <p>While the Council-created commission is about to begin its work and will take an extended timeline before its ballot proposals are announced next year, the mayoral charter revision commission is in the final two months before it makes its recommendations public by early September, in time to be included on the November ballot. That commission recently made clear its areas of focus -- voting and election reform, campaign finance reform, land use decision-making, community boards, civic engagement, and independent redistricting -- <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/charter-revision-commission" target="_blank" rel="noopener">and held relevant expert hearings</a>.</p> <p>[Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7780-chair-says-charter-commission-will-step-in-where-politics-has-slowed-reform" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Chair Says Mayoral Charter Commission Will Step In Where Politics Has Slowed Reform</a>]</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
Revising The People’s Charter with Open Minds 2018-04-11T04:00:00+00:00 2018-04-11T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/7608-revising-the-people-s-charter-with-open-minds Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/41240788261_d912b7c150_z.jpg" alt="City Hall Mayor's Office photo" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>City Hall (photo:&nbsp;Benjamin Kanter/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Revision of the City Charter, our central governing document, should not be a one-person show, focused on a single issue. Over the last 25 years, charter revision commissions have been wielded as political tools by mayors to block the building of a West Side Stadium, keep a political rival from potentially ascending to the mayoralty, and stop a referendum that would have limited the size of public school classes. Revisions have largely been narrow and myopic and the end results have been pre-baked according to the mayor’s will.</p> <p>The last truly transformative commission, convened in 1989, only came about in response to a Supreme Court decision and a series of scandals too big to ignore. But today, that all changes.</p> <p>We believe this city can do better. A new charter revision commission, which was approved Wednesday by the City Council, can and should be truly democratic and capable of broad systemic reform without predetermined conclusions.</p> <p>We support campaign finance reform, but also believe that the city’s land use, budget, and planning processes must be overhauled. We want to see the creation of a charter revision commission, but do not believe it should be an extension of one person’s will. That is why we proposed a commission on which no one official would have majority control and that would examine the charter as a whole, without preconditions or marching orders.</p> <p>We have thought a lot about New York City’s foundational governing document and have numerous specific proposals we would like to see considered. But what we really want is a truly independent commission that will enter the process with open ears and open minds - something that the entire City Council agrees with. Everything should be on the table, nothing should be off limits, and the final product should not be preordained by anyone. We proposed this as elected officials whose very offices have been threatened with elimination in past revisions, so it should be clear we have the courage of our convictions.</p> <p>Mayor de Blasio’s proposal to lower campaign contribution limits through a revision commission he is calling is a commendable attempt to limit the influence of money in politics. Our commission, which was proposed before the mayor’s, is not a rebuke of his specific policy goals. But our intention is to create a commission that will consider the entire charter and put forth a set of proposals on whatever needs fixing.</p> <p>It has been nearly 30 years since the City Charter has truly been looked at top-to-bottom with an eye towards real reform. The people of this city deserve an independent commission that will not be directed to take a specific action, but charged with the responsibility to look at the whole picture and bring its recommendations to the people. It should consider whether the Council should have more say over the budget process, whether communities will have more input in land use before deals are all but finalized, whether our current system of checks-and-balances is sufficient to ensure meaningful oversight of mayoral agencies. Those discussions will not be had if the mayor simply appoints a slate of proxies and tells them what to consider and what conclusions to reach.</p> <p>This does not need to be a zero-sum game, or even a competition. The mayor’s commission can move forward and pursue the ‘democracy agenda’ he envisions. Meanwhile his four appointees can join our commission for an open discussion of what else our charter needs to do to grow and change along with the city. The City Council has already expressed its support and, if the mayor will join us, we can all come together to do what’s best for the people of New York.</p> <p>***<br /> Gale Brewer is Manhattan Borough President and Letitia James is Public Advocate. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/galeabrewer" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@GaleABrewer</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/TishJames" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@TishJames</a>.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/41240788261_d912b7c150_z.jpg" alt="City Hall Mayor's Office photo" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>City Hall (photo:&nbsp;Benjamin Kanter/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Revision of the City Charter, our central governing document, should not be a one-person show, focused on a single issue. Over the last 25 years, charter revision commissions have been wielded as political tools by mayors to block the building of a West Side Stadium, keep a political rival from potentially ascending to the mayoralty, and stop a referendum that would have limited the size of public school classes. Revisions have largely been narrow and myopic and the end results have been pre-baked according to the mayor’s will.</p> <p>The last truly transformative commission, convened in 1989, only came about in response to a Supreme Court decision and a series of scandals too big to ignore. But today, that all changes.</p> <p>We believe this city can do better. A new charter revision commission, which was approved Wednesday by the City Council, can and should be truly democratic and capable of broad systemic reform without predetermined conclusions.</p> <p>We support campaign finance reform, but also believe that the city’s land use, budget, and planning processes must be overhauled. We want to see the creation of a charter revision commission, but do not believe it should be an extension of one person’s will. That is why we proposed a commission on which no one official would have majority control and that would examine the charter as a whole, without preconditions or marching orders.</p> <p>We have thought a lot about New York City’s foundational governing document and have numerous specific proposals we would like to see considered. But what we really want is a truly independent commission that will enter the process with open ears and open minds - something that the entire City Council agrees with. Everything should be on the table, nothing should be off limits, and the final product should not be preordained by anyone. We proposed this as elected officials whose very offices have been threatened with elimination in past revisions, so it should be clear we have the courage of our convictions.</p> <p>Mayor de Blasio’s proposal to lower campaign contribution limits through a revision commission he is calling is a commendable attempt to limit the influence of money in politics. Our commission, which was proposed before the mayor’s, is not a rebuke of his specific policy goals. But our intention is to create a commission that will consider the entire charter and put forth a set of proposals on whatever needs fixing.</p> <p>It has been nearly 30 years since the City Charter has truly been looked at top-to-bottom with an eye towards real reform. The people of this city deserve an independent commission that will not be directed to take a specific action, but charged with the responsibility to look at the whole picture and bring its recommendations to the people. It should consider whether the Council should have more say over the budget process, whether communities will have more input in land use before deals are all but finalized, whether our current system of checks-and-balances is sufficient to ensure meaningful oversight of mayoral agencies. Those discussions will not be had if the mayor simply appoints a slate of proxies and tells them what to consider and what conclusions to reach.</p> <p>This does not need to be a zero-sum game, or even a competition. The mayor’s commission can move forward and pursue the ‘democracy agenda’ he envisions. Meanwhile his four appointees can join our commission for an open discussion of what else our charter needs to do to grow and change along with the city. The City Council has already expressed its support and, if the mayor will join us, we can all come together to do what’s best for the people of New York.</p> <p>***<br /> Gale Brewer is Manhattan Borough President and Letitia James is Public Advocate. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/galeabrewer" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@GaleABrewer</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/TishJames" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@TishJames</a>.</p> <p>

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With Tweaks, City Council Passes Charter Revision Commission Bill 2018-04-08T04:00:00+00:00 2018-04-08T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7596-with-tweaks-city-council-charter-revision-commission-bill-expected-to-pass Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/27049305848_cfc450cd4a_z.jpg" alt="Government Operations" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>Council Member Cabrera and others (photo: John McCarten/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p><em>Note: The City Council passed this bill on Wednesday, April 11</em></p> <p>The New York City Council is moving ahead with a bill to create a Charter Revision Commission to review the city charter, the city’s seminal governing document, with a committee vote on the bill set for Tuesday, and the full Council likely to vote it through on Wednesday. The Council’s commission is a separate effort from Mayor Bill de Blasio’s own commission, called by the mayor a few weeks ago.</p> <p>On Tuesday, the Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations will hold a hearing on the latest version of its bill, whose prime sponsors are Public Advocate Letitia James, Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Council Member Ben Kallos (at the request of Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.) James and Brewer initially put forth the idea last year, and Johnson got behind the effort after being elected speaker in January, when a new Council class was seated.</p> <p>The committee, chaired by Council Member Fernando Cabrera, is set to vote through the adjusted bill, which has added several measures since <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7547-city-council-hears-bill-on-charter-revision-commission" target="_blank">the first hearing in mid-March</a>, and a spokesperson for Johnson confirmed in an email that the bill is set to pass the full Council.</p> <p>The Council’s commission will have 15 members charged with analyzing the broad structure and functions of city government, and is expected to carry out its work into next year. It’s recommendations will be presented to voters in the form of referenda, which Brewer, James, and others are hoping to see included on the ballot for the 2019 general election.</p> <p>Of the 15 members, four each will be appointed by the mayor and Council speaker, while one each will be chosen by the five borough presidents, the public advocate, and the comptroller. The speaker will also appoint the chair of the commission. All those elected officials have come out in support of the proposal, except for de Blasio, who has insisted on a more limited mandate for his own commission, which some suspect he organized to preempt the Brewer-James-Johnson effort. Though by law it can review any aspect of city government, de Blasio’s commission is tasked by the mayor with looking at election administration, voter participation, and reducing the influence of money in politics.</p> <p>De Blasio has said he wants his commission’s recommendations on the ballot this November.</p> <p>Seemingly in response to the mayor’s reluctance to join the Council’s effort, the latest version of the Council’s proposal was amended to require that appointments be made in 60 days or forfeited.</p> <p>The bill also added transparency provisions which government reform advocates had called for at <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7547-city-council-hears-bill-on-charter-revision-commission" target="_blank">the March 16 hearing on the bill</a>. The commission will be subject to the state Freedom of Information Law, and will have to maintain a website with hearing agendas and transcripts, and webcast hearings. "We are pleased the Council has made amendments Reinvent Albany favored,” said Alex Camarda, senior policy advisor for Reinvent Albany, one of the groups that testified at the Marc hearing. “This is a good sign a Council-convened commission will be open and transparent.”</p> <p>Proponents of the Council’s commission envision that it will explore everything from the power of the City Council in city budgeting and over mayoral appointees to greater scrutiny for city agencies and the role of communities in the city’s land use process.</p> <p>On March 15, a day before the Council’s hearing, de Blasio announced the appointments of chair, vice chair, and the executive director of his commission but he has yet to name the rest of its members. At an unrelated news conference last week, he said, “[W]e’ll be naming the members very shortly.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/27049305848_cfc450cd4a_z.jpg" alt="Government Operations" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>Council Member Cabrera and others (photo: John McCarten/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p><em>Note: The City Council passed this bill on Wednesday, April 11</em></p> <p>The New York City Council is moving ahead with a bill to create a Charter Revision Commission to review the city charter, the city’s seminal governing document, with a committee vote on the bill set for Tuesday, and the full Council likely to vote it through on Wednesday. The Council’s commission is a separate effort from Mayor Bill de Blasio’s own commission, called by the mayor a few weeks ago.</p> <p>On Tuesday, the Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations will hold a hearing on the latest version of its bill, whose prime sponsors are Public Advocate Letitia James, Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Council Member Ben Kallos (at the request of Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.) James and Brewer initially put forth the idea last year, and Johnson got behind the effort after being elected speaker in January, when a new Council class was seated.</p> <p>The committee, chaired by Council Member Fernando Cabrera, is set to vote through the adjusted bill, which has added several measures since <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7547-city-council-hears-bill-on-charter-revision-commission" target="_blank">the first hearing in mid-March</a>, and a spokesperson for Johnson confirmed in an email that the bill is set to pass the full Council.</p> <p>The Council’s commission will have 15 members charged with analyzing the broad structure and functions of city government, and is expected to carry out its work into next year. It’s recommendations will be presented to voters in the form of referenda, which Brewer, James, and others are hoping to see included on the ballot for the 2019 general election.</p> <p>Of the 15 members, four each will be appointed by the mayor and Council speaker, while one each will be chosen by the five borough presidents, the public advocate, and the comptroller. The speaker will also appoint the chair of the commission. All those elected officials have come out in support of the proposal, except for de Blasio, who has insisted on a more limited mandate for his own commission, which some suspect he organized to preempt the Brewer-James-Johnson effort. Though by law it can review any aspect of city government, de Blasio’s commission is tasked by the mayor with looking at election administration, voter participation, and reducing the influence of money in politics.</p> <p>De Blasio has said he wants his commission’s recommendations on the ballot this November.</p> <p>Seemingly in response to the mayor’s reluctance to join the Council’s effort, the latest version of the Council’s proposal was amended to require that appointments be made in 60 days or forfeited.</p> <p>The bill also added transparency provisions which government reform advocates had called for at <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7547-city-council-hears-bill-on-charter-revision-commission" target="_blank">the March 16 hearing on the bill</a>. The commission will be subject to the state Freedom of Information Law, and will have to maintain a website with hearing agendas and transcripts, and webcast hearings. "We are pleased the Council has made amendments Reinvent Albany favored,” said Alex Camarda, senior policy advisor for Reinvent Albany, one of the groups that testified at the Marc hearing. “This is a good sign a Council-convened commission will be open and transparent.”</p> <p>Proponents of the Council’s commission envision that it will explore everything from the power of the City Council in city budgeting and over mayoral appointees to greater scrutiny for city agencies and the role of communities in the city’s land use process.</p> <p>On March 15, a day before the Council’s hearing, de Blasio announced the appointments of chair, vice chair, and the executive director of his commission but he has yet to name the rest of its members. At an unrelated news conference last week, he said, “[W]e’ll be naming the members very shortly.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
City Council Hears Bill on Charter Revision Commission 2018-03-16T04:00:00+00:00 2018-03-16T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7547-city-council-hears-bill-on-charter-revision-commission Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/40116866614_e9e098ebc8_z.jpg" alt="Fernando Cabrera" width="600" height="416" /></p> <p>Council Member Fernando Cabrera (photo: John McCarten/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>A day after Mayor Bill de Blasio announced initial appointments to a Charter Revision Commission that he is convening to examine the city’s campaign finance laws, Public Advocate Letitia James and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer testified before the City Council on their own alternative proposal to create a Commission to examine the structure of city government.</p> <p>The Charter is the city’s seminal governing document, laying out the powers and functions of every level of city government. It is also a living document, and state law allows the mayor to create a 15-member Charter Revision Commission under his executive authority and also gives the City Council power to create one through legislation. Past mayors have availed of this power, some more than once. In February, de Blasio announced at his State of the City address that he intended to call a commission that could put proposals on the ballot for the November general election.</p> <p>On Friday, speaking before the Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations, James and Brewer advanced their proposal, which they had put before the Council in December and which City Council Speaker Corey Johnson recently signed on to as a lead co-sponsor. (The hearing had been on the schedule all week, perhaps explaining the timing of the mayor’s Thursday announcement.)</p> <p>As opposed to the mayor’s commission, where he appoints all 15 members, the James-Brewer bill would allow other elected officials a say in the process. The mayor would get four appointments, as would the City Council speaker. The five borough presidents, the public advocate, and the comptroller would each get to choose one member. An updated version of the bill grants the Council speaker the power to appoint the commission’s chair, a change that coincided with Johnson signing on as a co-sponsor and the Council pushing ahead with Friday’s hearing.</p> <p>James, in her opening statement, lauded the mayor’s intent in creating a commission but said it suffers from the same problems as previous commissions: “predetermined conclusions, a narrow focus on issues within Council authority, and a timeline far too tight to do the job right.” During his State of the City and since, de Blasio has indicated he wants his commission to focus on campaign finance and electoral reform, though he has acknowledged that by law the commission can look at the entirety of the charter.</p> <p>“The bill you will consider today...is a vehicle for a truly democratic and holistic process,” James said. Although both James and Brewer spoke of changes to the charter that they would be glad to see -- for instance, a stronger role for the Council in city budgeting, a greater voice for communities in land use decisions, enhanced oversight of city agencies -- they emphasized that those were not mandates that their proposed commission would be charged with. (Perhaps the only issue that James said she would not want on the table is changes to term limits for elected officials.) Rather, they would empower a commission to deliberate on the entire charter with ample time to consider the ramifications of any changes -- their commission would make proposals to go on the ballot in 2019.</p> <p>“Those discussions will not be had if the mayor simply appoints a slate of proxies and tells them what conclusions to reach,” said James, a Democrat like de Blasio, Brewer, and Johnson who is widely expected to run for mayor in 2021.</p> <p>James and Brewer also sought to dispel the notion that the commission they are proposing would competing with the mayor’s, pointing to the 2019 timeline and noting that they invited the mayor to join their effort. “This does not need to be a zero-sum game, or even a competition,” James said.</p> <p>Brewer, in particular, emphasized that past commissions had been formed by mayors to fulfil particular agendas and that appointees of the mayor were unlikely to consider proposals that could curb, in any way, the power of the mayor’s office. “I think all of our ideas would benefit from the give and take and compromise that would be necessary in a commission not controlled by any one elected official,” she said.</p> <p>Council Member Fernando Cabrera, chair of the committee, praised the bill and said he supported it because it was a “far better approach” than the mayor’s. “It will be a charter revision for everyone,” said the Bronx Democrat. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>But, Council Member Kalman Yeger, who was just elected to the Council in November, wasn’t sure about the proposal. “My perspective is that I have some discomfort with outsourcing my work, if you will, to an unelected body of 15 people,” he said, noting that though the speaker may get appointments on a commission, the other 50 Council members would not. He also raised concerns about proposing ballot referenda in 2019, an off-year in the election cycle when voter turnout is expected to be extremely low.</p> <p>James pushed back against those concerns. “I believe we should democratize this process,” she said, acknowledging that all the stakeholders in the commission would have to work hard to engage voters and generate interest in the revision process.</p> <p>Yeger, a Brooklyn Democrat, also pointed out what is most ironic about the two commissions: that they are being proposed by Democrats who ardently opposed holding a Constitutional Convention to examine the state constitution, which was a question on the ballot last November. Both Brewer and James conceded that though they opposed the ConCon, as it was colloquially called, the charter revision process has sufficient checks and balances, particularly with diverse appointees on a commission.</p> <p>James also noted that one of the big fears about the ConCon was about the individuals behind the curtain who would control it, which isn’t the case with their proposed commission. “There is no Wizard of Oz in this particular process,” she said. “It’s the Manhattan borough president and Letitia James, who you both know and work with.”</p> <p>Representatives for the four other borough presidents also testified in support of the bill, as did a number of government reform groups and advocates.</p> <p>Stanley Fritz, campaigns manager at Citizen Action of New York, encouraged the Council to set aside funds for a public education campaign to engage voters in the charter revision process. The bill currently calls for the Commission to hold at least one hearing in each of the five boroughs and to conduct extensive outreach to civic and community leaders.</p> <p>Fritz also advocated for amending the bill’s prohibition on appointing lobbyists to the commission, insisting that it should ensure that only lobbyists employed by for-profit entities should be barred, and that those who advocate for non-profits should be allowed to serve. Otherwise, “it would exclude virtually the entire New York City good-government community, including the sorts of advocates who are testifying before you today,” he said.</p> <p>Doug Muzzio, political science professor at Baruch College's School of Public and International Affairs, has also testified before an expert panel of the 2010 Charter Revision Commission created then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg. On Friday, he emphasized that any new commission should “articulate clear and compelling goals” related to broad subject areas such as governmental structure and land use, without which it would be directionless. He also said the commission should look at the unfinished business of past commissions, and “beware the unintended consequences,” though he didn’t offer specifics.</p> <p>Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause New York, said the bill was “skeletal” and should add language to ensure that staff of those elected officials making appointments should be excluded from working for the commission. She also questioned why Speaker Johnson would be allowed to appoint the chair of the proposed commission, as opposed to the commission members choosing their own leader.</p> <p>Alex Camarda, senior policy advisor for Reinvent Albany, had a few prescriptions for a potential commission. He said the speaker and mayor should jointly appoint the chair of the commission; &nbsp;and stressed that the commission should abide by the state’s Freedom of information and Open Meetings laws, and should require public posting of events, materials, reports and archives.</p> <p>He also suggested that the bill include language requiring commission members and staff to solely use government emails to carry out their work and that any lobbying directed at the commission should be publicly reported. &nbsp;</p> <p>Camarda also encouraged the Council and mayor to work together on one commission, warning that two commissions could result in “conflicting policy, public confusion, excessive politicization, inefficiency, and litigation.”</p> <p>“There is no doubt two commissions convened in the same year would be unprecedented in recent memory and create a high degree of uncertainty,” he said.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/40116866614_e9e098ebc8_z.jpg" alt="Fernando Cabrera" width="600" height="416" /></p> <p>Council Member Fernando Cabrera (photo: John McCarten/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>A day after Mayor Bill de Blasio announced initial appointments to a Charter Revision Commission that he is convening to examine the city’s campaign finance laws, Public Advocate Letitia James and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer testified before the City Council on their own alternative proposal to create a Commission to examine the structure of city government.</p> <p>The Charter is the city’s seminal governing document, laying out the powers and functions of every level of city government. It is also a living document, and state law allows the mayor to create a 15-member Charter Revision Commission under his executive authority and also gives the City Council power to create one through legislation. Past mayors have availed of this power, some more than once. In February, de Blasio announced at his State of the City address that he intended to call a commission that could put proposals on the ballot for the November general election.</p> <p>On Friday, speaking before the Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations, James and Brewer advanced their proposal, which they had put before the Council in December and which City Council Speaker Corey Johnson recently signed on to as a lead co-sponsor. (The hearing had been on the schedule all week, perhaps explaining the timing of the mayor’s Thursday announcement.)</p> <p>As opposed to the mayor’s commission, where he appoints all 15 members, the James-Brewer bill would allow other elected officials a say in the process. The mayor would get four appointments, as would the City Council speaker. The five borough presidents, the public advocate, and the comptroller would each get to choose one member. An updated version of the bill grants the Council speaker the power to appoint the commission’s chair, a change that coincided with Johnson signing on as a co-sponsor and the Council pushing ahead with Friday’s hearing.</p> <p>James, in her opening statement, lauded the mayor’s intent in creating a commission but said it suffers from the same problems as previous commissions: “predetermined conclusions, a narrow focus on issues within Council authority, and a timeline far too tight to do the job right.” During his State of the City and since, de Blasio has indicated he wants his commission to focus on campaign finance and electoral reform, though he has acknowledged that by law the commission can look at the entirety of the charter.</p> <p>“The bill you will consider today...is a vehicle for a truly democratic and holistic process,” James said. Although both James and Brewer spoke of changes to the charter that they would be glad to see -- for instance, a stronger role for the Council in city budgeting, a greater voice for communities in land use decisions, enhanced oversight of city agencies -- they emphasized that those were not mandates that their proposed commission would be charged with. (Perhaps the only issue that James said she would not want on the table is changes to term limits for elected officials.) Rather, they would empower a commission to deliberate on the entire charter with ample time to consider the ramifications of any changes -- their commission would make proposals to go on the ballot in 2019.</p> <p>“Those discussions will not be had if the mayor simply appoints a slate of proxies and tells them what conclusions to reach,” said James, a Democrat like de Blasio, Brewer, and Johnson who is widely expected to run for mayor in 2021.</p> <p>James and Brewer also sought to dispel the notion that the commission they are proposing would competing with the mayor’s, pointing to the 2019 timeline and noting that they invited the mayor to join their effort. “This does not need to be a zero-sum game, or even a competition,” James said.</p> <p>Brewer, in particular, emphasized that past commissions had been formed by mayors to fulfil particular agendas and that appointees of the mayor were unlikely to consider proposals that could curb, in any way, the power of the mayor’s office. “I think all of our ideas would benefit from the give and take and compromise that would be necessary in a commission not controlled by any one elected official,” she said.</p> <p>Council Member Fernando Cabrera, chair of the committee, praised the bill and said he supported it because it was a “far better approach” than the mayor’s. “It will be a charter revision for everyone,” said the Bronx Democrat. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>But, Council Member Kalman Yeger, who was just elected to the Council in November, wasn’t sure about the proposal. “My perspective is that I have some discomfort with outsourcing my work, if you will, to an unelected body of 15 people,” he said, noting that though the speaker may get appointments on a commission, the other 50 Council members would not. He also raised concerns about proposing ballot referenda in 2019, an off-year in the election cycle when voter turnout is expected to be extremely low.</p> <p>James pushed back against those concerns. “I believe we should democratize this process,” she said, acknowledging that all the stakeholders in the commission would have to work hard to engage voters and generate interest in the revision process.</p> <p>Yeger, a Brooklyn Democrat, also pointed out what is most ironic about the two commissions: that they are being proposed by Democrats who ardently opposed holding a Constitutional Convention to examine the state constitution, which was a question on the ballot last November. Both Brewer and James conceded that though they opposed the ConCon, as it was colloquially called, the charter revision process has sufficient checks and balances, particularly with diverse appointees on a commission.</p> <p>James also noted that one of the big fears about the ConCon was about the individuals behind the curtain who would control it, which isn’t the case with their proposed commission. “There is no Wizard of Oz in this particular process,” she said. “It’s the Manhattan borough president and Letitia James, who you both know and work with.”</p> <p>Representatives for the four other borough presidents also testified in support of the bill, as did a number of government reform groups and advocates.</p> <p>Stanley Fritz, campaigns manager at Citizen Action of New York, encouraged the Council to set aside funds for a public education campaign to engage voters in the charter revision process. The bill currently calls for the Commission to hold at least one hearing in each of the five boroughs and to conduct extensive outreach to civic and community leaders.</p> <p>Fritz also advocated for amending the bill’s prohibition on appointing lobbyists to the commission, insisting that it should ensure that only lobbyists employed by for-profit entities should be barred, and that those who advocate for non-profits should be allowed to serve. Otherwise, “it would exclude virtually the entire New York City good-government community, including the sorts of advocates who are testifying before you today,” he said.</p> <p>Doug Muzzio, political science professor at Baruch College's School of Public and International Affairs, has also testified before an expert panel of the 2010 Charter Revision Commission created then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg. On Friday, he emphasized that any new commission should “articulate clear and compelling goals” related to broad subject areas such as governmental structure and land use, without which it would be directionless. He also said the commission should look at the unfinished business of past commissions, and “beware the unintended consequences,” though he didn’t offer specifics.</p> <p>Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause New York, said the bill was “skeletal” and should add language to ensure that staff of those elected officials making appointments should be excluded from working for the commission. She also questioned why Speaker Johnson would be allowed to appoint the chair of the proposed commission, as opposed to the commission members choosing their own leader.</p> <p>Alex Camarda, senior policy advisor for Reinvent Albany, had a few prescriptions for a potential commission. He said the speaker and mayor should jointly appoint the chair of the commission; &nbsp;and stressed that the commission should abide by the state’s Freedom of information and Open Meetings laws, and should require public posting of events, materials, reports and archives.</p> <p>He also suggested that the bill include language requiring commission members and staff to solely use government emails to carry out their work and that any lobbying directed at the commission should be publicly reported. &nbsp;</p> <p>Camarda also encouraged the Council and mayor to work together on one commission, warning that two commissions could result in “conflicting policy, public confusion, excessive politicization, inefficiency, and litigation.”</p> <p>“There is no doubt two commissions convened in the same year would be unprecedented in recent memory and create a high degree of uncertainty,” he said.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
Council Speaker Backs Charter Commission Bill That Gives Him More Sway 2018-03-13T04:00:00+00:00 2018-03-13T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7540-council-speaker-backs-charter-commission-bill-that-gives-him-more-sway Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/38481177690_46fea514fe_z.jpg" alt="Corey Johnson" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>Speaker Johnson (photo: John McCarten/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said last week that the Council would forge ahead with legislation to create a Charter Revision Commission to review the broad structure of city government, bucking Mayor Bill de Blasio’s intention to unilaterally create a commission meant to explore campaign finance and electoral reforms. And Johnson’s support of the bill -- first proposed in December by Public Advocate Letitia James and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer -- also came with one significant change to its language. Instead of the commission members electing a chair and vice chair from among themselves, the speaker would get to appoint the head of the commission.</p> <p>The original James-Brewer bill was introduced amid a frenzy of other activity on the last day of the 2014-2017 session of the City Council and, just two months later, was undercut by de Blasio’s announcement in his State of the City address that he would convene his own commission. The mayor said that he would solicit input from others, but that he would appoint all the commission members, exercising his executive prerogative.</p> <p>On Friday, however, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/09/nyregion/nyc-council-mayor-charter-review.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The New York Times reported</a> that Johnson would support the James-Brewer proposal, which calls for a commission with four members appointed by the mayor, four appointed by the Council speaker, one member appointed by each borough president, and one member appointed by each the public advocate and the comptroller.</p> <p>The original version of the bill proposed that the commission would get to choose one of its members to lead it through the process of examining, debating, and reimagining the charter, effectively the city’s constitution. The process takes months at the minimum, depending on the scope of the commission’s review, and its proposals are put to the voters on the ballot.</p> <p>The amended version of the bill, on which Johnson was added as a lead co-sponsor along with James and Brewer, contains the change giving him more power. “The speaker of the city council shall appoint from among the membership a chairperson,” it states.</p> <p>Joseph Viteritti, a professor at Hunter College who was research director for the Charter Revision Commission convened by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2010, said the change “certainly makes the Speaker a more important player in this.”</p> <p>“A very important function of the chair is to select the staff of the commission, the executive director, and the research director,” Viteritti said, pointing out that much of the work is driven by those staffers. “From a working point of view, I think it is significant...That’s what drives the process in the end.”</p> <p>Jennifer Fermino, a spokesperson for Johnson, maintained that the change in the bill was not noteworthy. “The structure of the commission remains unchanged. The sponsors of the bill agreed that having a chair appointed by the Speaker would make the process of setting up the Commission more efficient, as it has for past Commissions. The Chair can accept space and initial staff which will enable the Commission to get to work more quickly,” Fermino said in a statement.</p> <p>Spokespeople for James and Brewer did not provide comment for this article. A mayoral spokesperson declined to comment.</p> <p>Viteritti did note that any commission, whether created by the legislative branch or the executive, is virtually unhindered in scope and can choose to explore any section of the charter its members deem necessary. Both camps proposing a commission -- the mayor on one side and the council speaker, public advocate and Manhattan borough president on the other -- have made clear the issues they want to pursue, however.</p> <p>De Blasio was more direct, stating in <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7476-de-blasio-promises-fairness-democracy-in-state-of-the-city-address" target="_blank" rel="noopener">his February 13 State of the City speech</a> that he would appoint a commission and “give it the mandate” to propose changes to campaign finance law, reducing the influence of wealthy donors in elections, as well as empower the city government to handle responsibilities currently entrusted to the Board of Elections, a quasi-state agency.</p> <p>Johnson is hoping for a broader assessment of city government, without any “pre-baked” ideas and proposals, and not including proposals that fall under the Council’s legislative authority, such as campaign finance reform. “A Charter Revision Commission should look at things that are structural in the governance of New York City,” he said when asked by Gotham Gazette, at an unrelated news conference last week, two days before The New York Times report.</p> <p>Among the ideas he floated -- some of which have been supported by James and Brewer as well -- are independent budgeting for the offices of the public advocate, the borough presidents, the comptroller and community boards; an “advise-and-consent” role for the Council on additional mayoral appointees and nominations; examining changes to the city’s land use process and units of appropriation as part of the budget process.</p> <p>“Those are things that we at the Council cannot legislate,” Johnson added. “They’re in the City Charter, they go to the structure of city government and we can’t legislate them. The issues that the mayor put forward, while they may be worthy issues, they’re not issues that the public needs to vote on as part of a Charter Revision Commission. The council could legislate those items.”</p> <p>The Council bill is set to be heard by the Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations on Friday.</p> <p>“You never can entirely predict where a commission is going to go,” Viteritti said. “If you know where you’re going before you get there, what’s the point of calling a Charter Revision Commission.”</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7476-de-blasio-promises-fairness-democracy-in-state-of-the-city-address" target="_blank" rel="noopener">De Blasio Promises Fairness, Democracy in State of the City Address</a>]</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7488-next-steps-and-recent-precedents-for-de-blasio-s-charter-revision-commission" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Next Steps and Recent Precedents for De Blasio's Charter Revision Commission</a>]</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/38481177690_46fea514fe_z.jpg" alt="Corey Johnson" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>Speaker Johnson (photo: John McCarten/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said last week that the Council would forge ahead with legislation to create a Charter Revision Commission to review the broad structure of city government, bucking Mayor Bill de Blasio’s intention to unilaterally create a commission meant to explore campaign finance and electoral reforms. And Johnson’s support of the bill -- first proposed in December by Public Advocate Letitia James and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer -- also came with one significant change to its language. Instead of the commission members electing a chair and vice chair from among themselves, the speaker would get to appoint the head of the commission.</p> <p>The original James-Brewer bill was introduced amid a frenzy of other activity on the last day of the 2014-2017 session of the City Council and, just two months later, was undercut by de Blasio’s announcement in his State of the City address that he would convene his own commission. The mayor said that he would solicit input from others, but that he would appoint all the commission members, exercising his executive prerogative.</p> <p>On Friday, however, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/09/nyregion/nyc-council-mayor-charter-review.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The New York Times reported</a> that Johnson would support the James-Brewer proposal, which calls for a commission with four members appointed by the mayor, four appointed by the Council speaker, one member appointed by each borough president, and one member appointed by each the public advocate and the comptroller.</p> <p>The original version of the bill proposed that the commission would get to choose one of its members to lead it through the process of examining, debating, and reimagining the charter, effectively the city’s constitution. The process takes months at the minimum, depending on the scope of the commission’s review, and its proposals are put to the voters on the ballot.</p> <p>The amended version of the bill, on which Johnson was added as a lead co-sponsor along with James and Brewer, contains the change giving him more power. “The speaker of the city council shall appoint from among the membership a chairperson,” it states.</p> <p>Joseph Viteritti, a professor at Hunter College who was research director for the Charter Revision Commission convened by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2010, said the change “certainly makes the Speaker a more important player in this.”</p> <p>“A very important function of the chair is to select the staff of the commission, the executive director, and the research director,” Viteritti said, pointing out that much of the work is driven by those staffers. “From a working point of view, I think it is significant...That’s what drives the process in the end.”</p> <p>Jennifer Fermino, a spokesperson for Johnson, maintained that the change in the bill was not noteworthy. “The structure of the commission remains unchanged. The sponsors of the bill agreed that having a chair appointed by the Speaker would make the process of setting up the Commission more efficient, as it has for past Commissions. The Chair can accept space and initial staff which will enable the Commission to get to work more quickly,” Fermino said in a statement.</p> <p>Spokespeople for James and Brewer did not provide comment for this article. A mayoral spokesperson declined to comment.</p> <p>Viteritti did note that any commission, whether created by the legislative branch or the executive, is virtually unhindered in scope and can choose to explore any section of the charter its members deem necessary. Both camps proposing a commission -- the mayor on one side and the council speaker, public advocate and Manhattan borough president on the other -- have made clear the issues they want to pursue, however.</p> <p>De Blasio was more direct, stating in <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7476-de-blasio-promises-fairness-democracy-in-state-of-the-city-address" target="_blank" rel="noopener">his February 13 State of the City speech</a> that he would appoint a commission and “give it the mandate” to propose changes to campaign finance law, reducing the influence of wealthy donors in elections, as well as empower the city government to handle responsibilities currently entrusted to the Board of Elections, a quasi-state agency.</p> <p>Johnson is hoping for a broader assessment of city government, without any “pre-baked” ideas and proposals, and not including proposals that fall under the Council’s legislative authority, such as campaign finance reform. “A Charter Revision Commission should look at things that are structural in the governance of New York City,” he said when asked by Gotham Gazette, at an unrelated news conference last week, two days before The New York Times report.</p> <p>Among the ideas he floated -- some of which have been supported by James and Brewer as well -- are independent budgeting for the offices of the public advocate, the borough presidents, the comptroller and community boards; an “advise-and-consent” role for the Council on additional mayoral appointees and nominations; examining changes to the city’s land use process and units of appropriation as part of the budget process.</p> <p>“Those are things that we at the Council cannot legislate,” Johnson added. “They’re in the City Charter, they go to the structure of city government and we can’t legislate them. The issues that the mayor put forward, while they may be worthy issues, they’re not issues that the public needs to vote on as part of a Charter Revision Commission. The council could legislate those items.”</p> <p>The Council bill is set to be heard by the Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations on Friday.</p> <p>“You never can entirely predict where a commission is going to go,” Viteritti said. “If you know where you’re going before you get there, what’s the point of calling a Charter Revision Commission.”</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7476-de-blasio-promises-fairness-democracy-in-state-of-the-city-address" target="_blank" rel="noopener">De Blasio Promises Fairness, Democracy in State of the City Address</a>]</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7488-next-steps-and-recent-precedents-for-de-blasio-s-charter-revision-commission" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Next Steps and Recent Precedents for De Blasio's Charter Revision Commission</a>]</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
Next Steps and Recent Precedents for De Blasio’s Charter Revision Commission 2018-02-20T05:00:00+00:00 2018-02-20T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7488-next-steps-and-recent-precedents-for-de-blasio-s-charter-revision-commission Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/38445040820_f6404fc2b3_z.jpg" alt="Mayor de Blasio State of the City" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio (photo:&nbsp;Benjamin Kanter/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced in his State of the City speech that he would convene a commission to consider changes to the city charter, New York City’s seminal governing document. De Blasio said the charter revision commission would undertake the significant task of reducing the impact of “big money” on local elections and to engage voters in a democracy that has suffered from their apathy. The mayor is hoping the commission members, whom he has yet to name, will prepare recommendations in time for voters to approve or reject the commission’s ideas on Election Day this November through one or more ballot questions.</p> <p>De Blasio is ready to utilize a power available to him, though some are already questioning why he isn’t pursuing his desired changes through legislation at the City Council, while others are criticizing the mayor for pre-determining the panel’s outcomes. But, de Blasio will do as several predecessors have done and call a commission. How exactly does it work?</p> <p>The mayor has the power to call a Charter Revision Commission under <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/laws/MHR/36" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Section 36</a> of the state’s municipal home rule law. A commission can be composed of between 9 and 15 members, who would all have to be residents of the city. The mayor simply has to file the names of his chosen members, who can include current public officials, with the City Clerk’s office. There is no public vetting process, but de Blasio has conceded that he is open to input from concerned elected officials about who should serve on the body.</p> <p>“I’m going to act in the manner stipulated in the City Charter,” the mayor said at an unrelated news conference on Feb 14, when asked by Gotham Gazette if he’d let other elected officials choose members for the commission, as some were calling for even before de Blasio’s announcement. “So, I’ll be naming the commission. I’m happy to talk to my colleagues in government about people they think would be right to serve, but I will name the commission just as previous mayors did.”</p> <p>De Blasio said in his State of the City speech that he would “give [the Commission] the mandate to propose a plan for deep public financing of local elections.” Despite being elected with maximum contributions from wealthy donors (the limit is $4,950 per person to a mayoral candidate), the mayor has been a frequent critic of the influence of big money in elections. He also established multiple extra-governmental fundraising entities that took in hundreds of thousands of dollars from entities with city business and led to new city laws restricting such groups.</p> <p>De Blasio has directly spoken out against the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which opened the floodgates to untold amounts of unaccountable election spending, and has repeatedly called for broader campaign finance reforms to be enacted by the state.</p> <p>“I will also charge the Charter Revision Commission to propose a plan to empower the city government,” de Blasio continued during his State of the City, insisting that the city should be able to take on duties he believes are currently mishandled by the New York City Board of Elections, a quasi-state agency.</p> <p>However, the mayor cannot technically charge the Commission, which is meant to be independent, with exploring any specific agenda item. A commission could take up any issue its members deem appropriate and recommend changes to the charter that even the mayor could not reject. Final recommendations would have to be approved by a voter referendum.</p> <p>“The mayor I think has made it clear he has certain questions in mind, which seem to be well intended,” said Joseph Viteritti, a professor at Hunter College who served as research director for the 2010 Charter Revision Commission created by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg (Viteritti also <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7164-max-murphy-podcast-de-blasio-author-joseph-viteritti" target="_blank" rel="noopener">recently wrote a book about de Blasio</a>). “That said, once a commission is appointed, it can go where it chooses.”</p> <p>The 2010 commission held public hearings in each of the five boroughs and, based on feedback from the public and from elected officials, examined five broad subjects: voter participation, public integrity, government structure, term limits for elected officials, and land use. In its final report, the commission made several recommendations which ultimately formed the basis for <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/charter/downloads/pdf/final_ballot_questions_combined.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">two ballot questions</a> that were both <a href="http://vote.nyc.ny.us/html/results/2010.shtml" target="_blank" rel="noopener">approved</a> by 52 percent of voters.</p> <p>The first question reduced the number of terms that city elected officials can serve from three to two for those elected in 2010 and after, and prohibited the City Council from changing term limits for incumbents. The second question dealt more widely with elections and government administration. Among other things, it required the disclosure of independent expenditures in city elections; reduced the number of ballot petition signatures that candidates need to run for office; tasked the city’s Campaign Finance Board with voter assistance functions; established mandatory conflicts of interest trainings for all public servants, while also increasing fines for violations.</p> <p>“I would assume they’ll have public hearings and when you do that...people can introduce things that may or may not be on the agenda,” Viteritti said. “Any commission opens up the entire charter to review potentially. There’s no constraints once it’s appointed.”</p> <p>Notably, the 2010 Commission did not propose a ballot question on nonpartisan primary elections, a change that Bloomberg had made clear in the past that he wanted to see happen and that would allow any registered voter to vote in one party primary of their choosing. The Commission debated the issue extensively -- although Bloomberg did not raise it again that year -- but it did not include it in its final recommendations.&nbsp;“We decided not to propose that because we didn’t think we had enough time to consider the potential consequences of such a major change,” Viteritti said. “What that should tell anybody is that the mayor can express his priorities, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be reflected in the final deliberations of the commission.”</p> <p>The last time the city’s charter was thoroughly reviewed was by the 1989 Commission, on which Viteritti served as a consultant. That commission radically changed the structure of city government by eliminating the Board of Estimate -- a body made up of the citywide electeds and borough-wide officials who together exercised complete control over the city’s budget and land use -- and by assigning its roles to the City Council, which saw its number of seats increase from 35 to 51.</p> <p>Doug Muzzio, political science professor at Baruch College's School of Public and International Affairs, praised the mayor’s announcement but said his priorities should be broader. “It’s gotta be far more extensive and it’s gotta be funded appropriately,” said Muzzio, who was on an expert panel on government structure that testified before the 2010 Commission.</p> <p>Muzzio pointed to an <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=3331869&amp;GUID=693BF4E3-7810-4823-B0AB-6CC9AC1C98D9&amp;Options=ID|Text|&amp;Search=charter+revision" target="_blank" rel="noopener">alternate proposal</a> put forward in legislation by Public Advocate Letitia James and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, both second-term Democrats like de Blasio. The proposed bill would create a charter review commission composed of representatives appointed by the mayor, who would get a plurality of appointees, the speaker of the City Council, the borough presidents, the public advocate and the comptroller. “In terms of greater diversity of views on something as important as the charter, I would prefer the Brewer-James proposal,” Muzzio said.</p> <p>“Charter revision is important and needed,” Brewer <a href="https://twitter.com/galeabrewer/status/965978668295172096" target="_blank" rel="noopener">tweeted</a> on Tuesday, “but appointments should come from many electeds and the issues to be discussed should come from the group.”</p> <p>In <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/give-nyc-charter-thoughtful-revamp-article-1.3713580" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a New York Daily News editorial</a> in December, Brewer and James called for a revamp of the city’s charter, noting that “the last real overhaul” was in 1989. Citing a new world and new challenges, a charter revision commission, they said, could give communities a stronger voice in the city’s land use processes, provide City Council members with greater say over the city’s budget, and streamline agencies with shared responsibilities. “Our goal is simple: empower a panel of genuine experts to do a top-to-bottom review of how our government could work better, and put their recommendations up for public discussion and a vote,” they said.</p> <p>Time will likely be a constraint on de Blasio’s commission and if they are to be ready to make recommendations by November, they will have to move quickly. The 2010 commission was convened in March and had issued its final report by August.</p> <p>Both Muzzio and Viteritti also pointed out that many of the improvements to campaign financing and election laws that the mayor wants to accomplish are held back by inaction by the state Legislature and Citizens United.</p> <p>Although the mayor may not drastically change how New York City’s massive municipal government works, he has nonetheless set the stage for a broader discussion of voting laws, election funding, and the city’s waning democracy, Viteritti insisted.</p> <p>“To me the most important thing to come out of this is to raise the consciousness of people to how broken and troubled the democratic process is,” he said. “The more public discussion we have about these issues the better...We have to start the conversation somewhere. It’s not starting in Albany. It’s not starting in Washington, D.C., that’s for sure.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p> <p>Note - This article noted earlier that the 2010 Charter Revision Commission did not take up the issue of nonpartisan primary elections. The Commission, in fact, debated the issue but did not include it in their final recommendations. The article has been updated. &nbsp;</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/38445040820_f6404fc2b3_z.jpg" alt="Mayor de Blasio State of the City" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio (photo:&nbsp;Benjamin Kanter/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced in his State of the City speech that he would convene a commission to consider changes to the city charter, New York City’s seminal governing document. De Blasio said the charter revision commission would undertake the significant task of reducing the impact of “big money” on local elections and to engage voters in a democracy that has suffered from their apathy. The mayor is hoping the commission members, whom he has yet to name, will prepare recommendations in time for voters to approve or reject the commission’s ideas on Election Day this November through one or more ballot questions.</p> <p>De Blasio is ready to utilize a power available to him, though some are already questioning why he isn’t pursuing his desired changes through legislation at the City Council, while others are criticizing the mayor for pre-determining the panel’s outcomes. But, de Blasio will do as several predecessors have done and call a commission. How exactly does it work?</p> <p>The mayor has the power to call a Charter Revision Commission under <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/laws/MHR/36" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Section 36</a> of the state’s municipal home rule law. A commission can be composed of between 9 and 15 members, who would all have to be residents of the city. The mayor simply has to file the names of his chosen members, who can include current public officials, with the City Clerk’s office. There is no public vetting process, but de Blasio has conceded that he is open to input from concerned elected officials about who should serve on the body.</p> <p>“I’m going to act in the manner stipulated in the City Charter,” the mayor said at an unrelated news conference on Feb 14, when asked by Gotham Gazette if he’d let other elected officials choose members for the commission, as some were calling for even before de Blasio’s announcement. “So, I’ll be naming the commission. I’m happy to talk to my colleagues in government about people they think would be right to serve, but I will name the commission just as previous mayors did.”</p> <p>De Blasio said in his State of the City speech that he would “give [the Commission] the mandate to propose a plan for deep public financing of local elections.” Despite being elected with maximum contributions from wealthy donors (the limit is $4,950 per person to a mayoral candidate), the mayor has been a frequent critic of the influence of big money in elections. He also established multiple extra-governmental fundraising entities that took in hundreds of thousands of dollars from entities with city business and led to new city laws restricting such groups.</p> <p>De Blasio has directly spoken out against the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which opened the floodgates to untold amounts of unaccountable election spending, and has repeatedly called for broader campaign finance reforms to be enacted by the state.</p> <p>“I will also charge the Charter Revision Commission to propose a plan to empower the city government,” de Blasio continued during his State of the City, insisting that the city should be able to take on duties he believes are currently mishandled by the New York City Board of Elections, a quasi-state agency.</p> <p>However, the mayor cannot technically charge the Commission, which is meant to be independent, with exploring any specific agenda item. A commission could take up any issue its members deem appropriate and recommend changes to the charter that even the mayor could not reject. Final recommendations would have to be approved by a voter referendum.</p> <p>“The mayor I think has made it clear he has certain questions in mind, which seem to be well intended,” said Joseph Viteritti, a professor at Hunter College who served as research director for the 2010 Charter Revision Commission created by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg (Viteritti also <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7164-max-murphy-podcast-de-blasio-author-joseph-viteritti" target="_blank" rel="noopener">recently wrote a book about de Blasio</a>). “That said, once a commission is appointed, it can go where it chooses.”</p> <p>The 2010 commission held public hearings in each of the five boroughs and, based on feedback from the public and from elected officials, examined five broad subjects: voter participation, public integrity, government structure, term limits for elected officials, and land use. In its final report, the commission made several recommendations which ultimately formed the basis for <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/charter/downloads/pdf/final_ballot_questions_combined.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">two ballot questions</a> that were both <a href="http://vote.nyc.ny.us/html/results/2010.shtml" target="_blank" rel="noopener">approved</a> by 52 percent of voters.</p> <p>The first question reduced the number of terms that city elected officials can serve from three to two for those elected in 2010 and after, and prohibited the City Council from changing term limits for incumbents. The second question dealt more widely with elections and government administration. Among other things, it required the disclosure of independent expenditures in city elections; reduced the number of ballot petition signatures that candidates need to run for office; tasked the city’s Campaign Finance Board with voter assistance functions; established mandatory conflicts of interest trainings for all public servants, while also increasing fines for violations.</p> <p>“I would assume they’ll have public hearings and when you do that...people can introduce things that may or may not be on the agenda,” Viteritti said. “Any commission opens up the entire charter to review potentially. There’s no constraints once it’s appointed.”</p> <p>Notably, the 2010 Commission did not propose a ballot question on nonpartisan primary elections, a change that Bloomberg had made clear in the past that he wanted to see happen and that would allow any registered voter to vote in one party primary of their choosing. The Commission debated the issue extensively -- although Bloomberg did not raise it again that year -- but it did not include it in its final recommendations.&nbsp;“We decided not to propose that because we didn’t think we had enough time to consider the potential consequences of such a major change,” Viteritti said. “What that should tell anybody is that the mayor can express his priorities, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be reflected in the final deliberations of the commission.”</p> <p>The last time the city’s charter was thoroughly reviewed was by the 1989 Commission, on which Viteritti served as a consultant. That commission radically changed the structure of city government by eliminating the Board of Estimate -- a body made up of the citywide electeds and borough-wide officials who together exercised complete control over the city’s budget and land use -- and by assigning its roles to the City Council, which saw its number of seats increase from 35 to 51.</p> <p>Doug Muzzio, political science professor at Baruch College's School of Public and International Affairs, praised the mayor’s announcement but said his priorities should be broader. “It’s gotta be far more extensive and it’s gotta be funded appropriately,” said Muzzio, who was on an expert panel on government structure that testified before the 2010 Commission.</p> <p>Muzzio pointed to an <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=3331869&amp;GUID=693BF4E3-7810-4823-B0AB-6CC9AC1C98D9&amp;Options=ID|Text|&amp;Search=charter+revision" target="_blank" rel="noopener">alternate proposal</a> put forward in legislation by Public Advocate Letitia James and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, both second-term Democrats like de Blasio. The proposed bill would create a charter review commission composed of representatives appointed by the mayor, who would get a plurality of appointees, the speaker of the City Council, the borough presidents, the public advocate and the comptroller. “In terms of greater diversity of views on something as important as the charter, I would prefer the Brewer-James proposal,” Muzzio said.</p> <p>“Charter revision is important and needed,” Brewer <a href="https://twitter.com/galeabrewer/status/965978668295172096" target="_blank" rel="noopener">tweeted</a> on Tuesday, “but appointments should come from many electeds and the issues to be discussed should come from the group.”</p> <p>In <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/give-nyc-charter-thoughtful-revamp-article-1.3713580" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a New York Daily News editorial</a> in December, Brewer and James called for a revamp of the city’s charter, noting that “the last real overhaul” was in 1989. Citing a new world and new challenges, a charter revision commission, they said, could give communities a stronger voice in the city’s land use processes, provide City Council members with greater say over the city’s budget, and streamline agencies with shared responsibilities. “Our goal is simple: empower a panel of genuine experts to do a top-to-bottom review of how our government could work better, and put their recommendations up for public discussion and a vote,” they said.</p> <p>Time will likely be a constraint on de Blasio’s commission and if they are to be ready to make recommendations by November, they will have to move quickly. The 2010 commission was convened in March and had issued its final report by August.</p> <p>Both Muzzio and Viteritti also pointed out that many of the improvements to campaign financing and election laws that the mayor wants to accomplish are held back by inaction by the state Legislature and Citizens United.</p> <p>Although the mayor may not drastically change how New York City’s massive municipal government works, he has nonetheless set the stage for a broader discussion of voting laws, election funding, and the city’s waning democracy, Viteritti insisted.</p> <p>“To me the most important thing to come out of this is to raise the consciousness of people to how broken and troubled the democratic process is,” he said. “The more public discussion we have about these issues the better...We have to start the conversation somewhere. It’s not starting in Albany. It’s not starting in Washington, D.C., that’s for sure.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p> <p>Note - This article noted earlier that the 2010 Charter Revision Commission did not take up the issue of nonpartisan primary elections. The Commission, in fact, debated the issue but did not include it in their final recommendations. The article has been updated. &nbsp;</p>