Monthly Archives: May 2010

Charter Revision Focuses on Term Limits

John Keefe

To jaded journalists, Tuesday’s charter revision commission forum on term limits provided a stimulating, wonkishly entertaining, and ultimately inconsequential diversion. One observer sitting in the second row at Brooklyn’s Borough Hall chuckled throughout.

To John Keefe, who spoke for Brooklyn Assemblyman James Brennan, the forum — and the commission itself — were “part of a cynical and opportunistic deal” that Mike Bloomberg had made in October, 2008 with billionaire term limits advocate Ron Lauder as the price for Lauder’s non-opposition to Bloomberg’s run for a third term as mayor. Continue reading

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Term Limits and Non-partisan Elections

The 2010 charter revision commission’s upcoming Tuesday evening “issues forum” on term limits is just a detour on Mike Bloomberg’s path towards increased political power for members of the Billionaires Club.

The real thrust will play out the following week, when Bloomberg’s commission discusses non-partisan elections. Why are those so important to billionaires?

Joseph J. Savino, the Bronx Republican chairman, answered this for Sam Roberts of the NY Times: Non-partisan elections eliminate the need for party primaries, thus robbing the parties of a major raison d’etre. To Savino, as well as to most Democratic Party leaders, political parties are the only way to counter great personal wealth. Roberts writes:

“Mr. Savino said the party organization was “what separates the ability of an everyday person who doesn’t have a billion dollars to get on the ballot.”

“’If you’re just Joe Citizen,’ he said, ‘you need an organization.’”

Brooklyn’s Biotech Park Grows

Brooklyn's BioBAT Biotech Park

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg may be robbing us of one of the things we like to gripe about: the slow pace of his administration’s  departure from its  initial narrow focus on residential, office, entertainment, and retail development, e.g., Willets Point, Coney Island, Hunters Point South and the Kingsbridge Armory Mall.

That’s what we concluded today when we saw Mr. Bloomberg join with SUNY Downstate Medical Center President John C. LaRosa at a press conference at the Brooklyn Army Terminal, where they announced Phase II of BioBAT, the biotechnical industry facility that NYC’s Economic Development Corporation and Downstate are developing together. Continue reading

Bargemusic Comes to Ditmas Park

Bargemusic Ensemble photo: Jan Price

Tuesday’s rain didn’t prevent Ditmas Park from coming alive with the sounds of spring (and winter, summer, and fall) as Mark Peskanov, executive and artistic director of Bargemusic, Brooklyn’s floating concert hall, brought Bach and Vivaldi to P.S. 217. The 5:30 PM performance by Peskanov, with the Voxare String Quartet and bassist Paul Cinque, was the latest musical offering at the Flatbush elementary school, where former Ditmas Park resident Jodi Redhage had inaugurated her own Ditmas Park Concerts three years earlier. Continue reading

Charter Revision Alumni Weigh In

F. A. O. Schwarz, Jr. photo courtesy praxagora.com

You wouldn’t expect that a panel discussion by former charter revision commission chairs would be enlightening or amusing, but it was both. Monday’s webcast panel at Baruch College featured former commission chairs Richard Ravitch (1986-88), F.A.O. Schwarz, Jr. (1989), Randy Mastro ( 1999, 2001), Frank Macchiarola (2003), and Ester Fuchs (2005). Current commission chair Matthew Goldstein moderated; several of his colleagues participated in the questioning.

The senior panelists agreed that Mayor Bloomberg’s 2010 commission has no choice but to address term limits (although they couldn’t agree on how), that New York’s strong mayoralty must continue, and that the borough presidents’ offices should be strengthened. What they didn’t agree on — term limits, their impact on minority voting, the fate of the public advocate, and non-partisan elections — provided some lively back-and-forth. Continue reading

311: A Political Tool

The News and the Post report that Mayor Michael Bloomberg suggested to parishioners at Brooklyn’s Christian Cultural Center that they should use 311 to help them lobby to raise the state’s charter school cap. “Just pick up the phone, call 311, ask for the name and the phone number of your state senator or state assemblyman, call them up and say, ‘This is an outrage!'”

Strictly speaking, anyone can call 311 to learn an elected official’s phone number. But the mayor’s suggestion that 311 should be used in support of a specific political initiative — one that he favors — skirts the edge of propriety — and, maybe, the law. Continue reading

Charter Revision Commission Undermines Community Board Review of 2010 Proposals

Matthew Goldstein

The “issues forums” schedule just announced by the New York City Charter Revision Commission will limit public review of any proposed changes to ULURP, the city’s land use process.

This schedule needs to be scrapped.

The commission’s “issues forums,” calendared between May 25 and June 24, will generate charter proposals that won’t even be made public until July — when most New Yorkers have started their vacations, and community boards have gone on summer break. Continue reading