Tag Archives: Citizens Union

Technical Difficulties

NYC Charter Revision: We missed portions of Monday’s webcast NYC charter revision commission hearing when our Internet access crashed. Here’s what we managed to see and hear: Continue reading

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Citizens Union: NYC Needs Top-Two Elections

Citizens Union Speakers

NYC Charter Revision: Non-partisan primary elections — or, as the Citizens Union has re-labeled them, “top-two elections” — dominated Monday’s charter revision commission session at Brooklyn College.

The CU team proposing top-two included chairman Peter Sherwin, Executive Director Dick Dadey, senior staff members Alex Camarda and a silent Rachael Fauss, and the disembodied voice of CU Foundation board member John P. Avlon, who was unable to appear in person.

So effectively counterbalanced was CU’s top-two advocacy by the opposition from floor speakers that the evening felt scripted, almost as if some political strategist had said “we’ll satisfy CU that we’re listening to them, but we’ll give enough opponents a chance to speak that CU will realize that putting non-partisan elections on the ballot this year would fail. And then the mayor won’t owe anything to them or to the Independence Party.” Continue reading

“Good Government” Comes to Flatbush

The Citizens Union, NYC’s oldest “good government” group and “public partner” of the 2010 NYC Charter Revision Commission, will get a chance to present its recommendations to the commission and the public on Monday, July 19, at 6:00 PM at Gershwin Theater at Brooklyn College. The session will be webcast.

The Citizens Union already has conveyed its 49 charter recommendations in a 114-page report entitled “Increasing Avenues for Participation in Governing and Elections in New York City,” released on June 30. Monday’s session will set aside time for discussion of these recommendations by Citizens Union Executive Director Dick Dadey and CU senior staff members Alex Camarda and Rachael Fauss, and questions by commission members. Continue reading

Scissura: Practice What You Preach

2010 NYC Charter Revision Commission

The 2010 NYC Charter Revision Commission spent much of its July 12 meeting agonizing over ways to restore the public’s faith in government and increase voter participation. It did not acknowledge that voter apathy may stem from the public’s resignation that billionaires will continue to control the Mayor’s office, and that selection of City Council members may make little difference in shaping City Hall’s major decisions.

The webcast meeting had been convened to discuss the commission staff’s July 9 preliminary report. But as quickly as the staff’s proposal for instant run-off voting — IRV — appeared on the pages of that report, it got jettisoned when chairman Matthew Goldstein’s colleagues complained that they never had discussed it. Continue reading

Community Boards: A Vicious Circle

Ira B. Harkavy

Ira Harkavy, Florence Nathanson, Esther Lopato and Helen Henkin were community board members back in the day when board membership meant more than echoing the mayor’s priorities or being ignored.

The three women are gone; Harkavy, who quit as chairman of Brooklyn Community Board 14 to run for the bench, is retired from a long and respected judicial career during which he inspired a Hollywood film by sentencing a landlord to live in his own tenement.

All of them were “plugged in” (Harkavy, for example, concurrently led CB14, the Madison Jewish Center, the Brooklyn College campus foundation and alumni association, the Brooklyn College Hillel House, and the Midwood Development Corporation); all adhered to the highest ethical standards; all commanded respect and all used their formidable intellectual and moral powers to ensure that City Hall paid attention to the needs of Flatbush and Midwood, the neighborhoods their board comprised. Continue reading

The Bloomberg/Citizens Union Charter Agenda

Mayor Bloomberg’s 2010 charter revision partnership with the Citizens Union showed its face Monday in the form of a comprehensive charter overview by CU panelist Douglas Muzzio, a professor at Baruch College. Here’s some of what Muzzio wrote, with our translations in italics:

Describing the current city charter, Muzzio called it “a large document (currently 356 pages), packed with organizational minutiae, much of which belongs in the Administrative Code.” The Bloomberg commission — with the help of the Citizens Union — will call for “streamlining” the charter by shifting some of its provisions to the Administrative Code. This will make it easier for the mayor and the Council to change those provisions later on, without the public scrutiny that would occur if they remained in the charter.

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Charter Revision: Whose Rules?

Frustration grew to a boil near the end of a March 5 public hearing by the NYS Assembly’s Standing Committee on Cities at 250 Broadway. The committee, chaired by Assemblyman James Brennan (44AD), was hearing comment on proposed bills to amend the State’s Municipal Home Rule Law, which governs how New York’s cities may revise their charters.

Just two days earlier, Mayor Michael Bloomberg had announced the creation of a 2010 charter revision commission for New York City. To the surprise of many, the Bloomberg announcement singled out the Citizens Union, a century-old independent “good-government” reform group, to partner with the charter commission to improve public outreach. Continue reading