Charter Commission Puts out a Preliminary To Do List
July 9th, 2010

Those hoping the city’s Charter Revision Commission will consider term limits, instant run off voting and the consolidation of the Voter Assistance Commission (which we report on here) with the Campaign Finance Board are in luck.

But if you were banking on a boost to borough presidents’ power or rescinding the authority to oversee lobbyists from the city clerk, better luck next year.

The preliminary staff report from the commission was released this afternoon, which outlines recommendations for how the commission should proceed.

On term limits, the staff recommended the commission get more comment from the public on whether the charter should limit terms to two, possibly three for City Council members and prohibit council members from extending their own terms.

To increase voter participation, the report suggests the commission get more pubic comment on instant run off voting to select party candidates in primaries for citywide offices. The report floats the possibility of putting the issue on the ballot in November (We have covered this issue extensively here and here and here). This system would require voters rank their three top candidates during a primary election, and it would eliminate the need for runoffs.

Also to bring out the vote, the report recommends cutting the number of signatures needed to get on the ballot in half to 3,750 signatures for citywide candidates, 2,000 for borough-wide candidates and 450 for City Council candidates.

To preserve so-called government integrity, the report recommends increasing the penalty cap for a single conflicts of interest violation from $10,000 to $25,000, incorporating into the charter a ban on sponsoring budget items that benefit council members personally and requiring the disclosure of independent expenditures (we report on that here).

The report states that staff will explore other voter turnout issues, including allowing same-day registration and voting on the weekends, in its final report to be released later this summer.

While the report discusses nonpartisan elections, it makes no promise to revisit the issue in its final submission. It has been widely reported that the issue is off the table for this year.

The report also declines to opine on any changes to the land use process and whether the public advocate and borough presidents should be abolished.

“At this point we believe it is more fruitful to focus attention on term limits and the other issues discussed in Parts I-IV of this Report. We recommend reserving consideration of substantial structural changes for further study and discussion.”

Here is the report in full.

Preliminary Report FINAL

By on July 9, 2010, 5:29 pm
In category: City Hall,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing,Land Use,Law,nextNY,Public Finance | 1 Comment »

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One Response to “Charter Commission Puts out a Preliminary To Do List”

  1. Gene Russianoff Says:
    July 12th, 2010 at 10:18 am

    I think the staff of the City Charter Revision Commission got it right, not biting off more than the Commission could chew.

    The staff has wisely recommended placing a limited range of proposals on the November ballot. This makes sense, given the short time frame with final proposals due in eight weeks. This avoids giving the interested public insufficient time to consider the merits of many proposals during a broiling New York summer, such as the complex and fractious issue of non-partisan elections as well as land use issues.

    In our first look at the report, we find a number of meritorious proposals, including:

    * giving the voters more than one choice on the kind of term limits the City should have;

    mandating that any future term limits changes by legislation be prospective only (i.e., do not extend the eligibility of any incumbent official);

    recommending public discussion of Instant Runoff Voting, which could give voters a choice without having to conduct expensive, high-cost runoff elections;

    halving the onerous the number of ballot petition signature gathering for City candidates;

    consolidating the Voter Assistance Commission and the Campaign Finance Board; and

    increasing penalties for violating the City’s Conflicts of Interest Code and mandating ethics training for City employees.

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