Mayor Finally Names 2010 Charter Revision Commission

Matthew Goldstein

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg finally named CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein to chair his 2010 charter revision commission. Along with Goldstein, the mayor’s press release identified 14 other commission members.

Two of them can be expected to be particularly sensitive to the interests of NYC’s community boards: Anthony Perez Cassino, an attorney who served as Chairman of Bronx Community Board 8 from 2004-2008, and Carlo Scissura, who currently serves as Chief of Staff to Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz.

The appointment of Cassino and Scissura implies that the charter commission is unlikely to propose complete elimination of community boards or the borough presidents, although changes in the duties and responsibilities of both are not off the table.

Bloomberg’s announcement said nothing about the commission’s timetable. Nor did it identify who would occupy the all-important executive director’s position, customarily the person who directs a charter commission’s staff and sets its agenda. The press release did, however, include an unexpected nod to the Citizens Union “for making a commitment to conduct its own review of the Charter, which will be a great resource for the commission.”

Such a formal collaboration with a civic organization is unprecedented, at least by NYC charter commissions within our memory. It may be cause for some concern by civics and other grass-roots community organizations, because “good government” groups such as the Citizens Union tend to support the mayor, confer the appearance but not the reality of broad public consultation, and frequently aim any suggestions for municipal reform at the City Council.

As we’ve noted before, such reforms, usually framed as intended to increase transparency and reduce back-room deals, could de facto increase the power of the mayor by weakening the consensus-building tools currently available to Council leadership.

To us, a stronger City Council — and stronger borough presidents — are essential for NYC’s future.

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2 responses to “Mayor Finally Names 2010 Charter Revision Commission

  1. patricia dolan

    Here we go again. Given the history of past commissions, especially the 1989 one that gave city government its current structure, there is litttle in the new roster to comfort New Yorkers who worry for their neighborhoods.
    In the age of the Internet, the Citizens Union will not be the only civic watchdog chewing over this commission’s deliberations.

  2. Michael Meyers

    Another sham “independent” commission.

    Just about everyone on this so-called “independent” NYC Charter Revision Commission is beholden to, falls under the direct influence of, or is under the command of an elected official or government-funded entity. Indeed, its Chair is the Chancellor of the City University of Higher Education (CUNY) –a wholly-owned subsidiary of state and city government. How is it, then, by any stretch of the imagination, to be regarded as an “independent” commission?

    And, how many times will the self-interested elected officials insist on a “reconsideration” of the People’s Term Limits Law? Voters voted in the course of two referenda that we wanted our city’s elected officials to serve no more than two successive terms in the same office and then the officials would have to exit–either serve in another elected office or else go get jobs elsewhere (anywhere) or else GO HOME. Despite the people’s votes in the two citywide referenda, and notwithstanding that every opinion poll since these two referenda, to date, has reaffirmed voters’ strong support for the TWO successive term limits that we imposed on the offices of Mayor, Public Advocate, Controller, Borough Presidents, and members of the City Council, the politicians (many of them whose terms were nearing an end) arrogantly joined forces with Mayor Bloomberg and legislatively overturned the People’s Term Limits Law. Hence, the City Council, on its own, voted to extend the number of terms in office for themselves and for all the other officials to THREE successive terms (from the limit of two).

    That bold and self-serving action was urged upon them and signed into law by Mayor Bloomberg. Regrettably, this legislative override of a referendum was upheld by the courts. Thus, our elected officials by overturning the voters’ term limits law thwarted the the people’s will.

    The very next election cycle, the voters showed their great displeasure with the politicians; voters tossed out several incumbents in the City Council–a rarity–they who had voted to extend the number of terms they could serve in the City Council. Even City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (who had engineered the overturning of the People’s Term Limits Law in the City Council) found herself in electoral difficulty; she eked out a narrow victory in a primary contest against two unknown rivals. And, then, in the general election, the allegedly wildly popular Mayor Bloomberg narrowly won reelection to a third term.

    Now, the narrowly re-elected third-term Mayor Bloomberg (once a supporter of term limits) has appointed yet another commission to look yet again at “city governance”–meaning they will look AGAIN at term limits, no doubt, with a view toward lifting term limits altogether.

    These pols and their surrogates toy with the people’s wrath at their own peril.

    We should be appalled that this so-called “independent” City Charter Review Commission is comprised in the main of persons who individually answer to government officials or who (such as is the case with the CUNY Chancellor and the Chairman of the NYC Civilian Complaint Review Board–a mayoral agency– depend on government funding for their respective institutions’ support and budgets.

    What a waste of taxpayers’ money to fund this charade and pretense at updating city governance and structures!

    Michael Meyers, Manhattan, New York.

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