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.