Tag Archives: Citizens Union

Why Charter Revision Matters: Our Core Principles

Some of our readers may wonder why we repeatedly worry about giving the mayor any additional powers. It’s because we believe that our current system of government tends to select city-wide leaders who support the interests of Manhattan’s finance and real estate industries — to the detriment of other boroughs and other industries. As important as finance and real estate are for the city’s financial solvency (right now, they’re still crucial), they don’t tend to create middle-income jobs, which can leave us in a vulnerable place in an economic downturn, as in 2008-2009. Simply put, we’ve placed too many of our eggs in one or two baskets. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

Fuchs: Charter Proposals Not Likely This Year

Ester Fuchs

At Tuesday evening’s charter revision forum at Baruch College, panelist Ester Fuchs, chair of Mayor Bloomberg’s 2005 charter revision commission, responded to a question from moderator Doug Muzzio about the timing of proposals to be advanced by a 2010 commission. When would such a commission’s work product go before the voters? “I think it’s going to be over a year…” Fuchs answered. “I don’t think it’s going to be on the ballot this September.”

Fuchs’ projection was not contested by the other panelists at the forum co-sponsored by Citizens Union, possibly because she had suggested inside knowledge earlier in the session. Although the mayor has not yet named the members of this year’s commission, Fuchs, who recently accepted a fellowship at the Partnership for New York City, is expected to play a role.

A long timetable for this year’s charter revision commission would be consistent with the “top to bottom” restructuring considered probable by the Baruch panelists, who included Stephen Fiala, a member of the 2005 commission, Eric Lane, executive director of the landmark 1989 charter revision commission, and William C. Thompson, the former NYC Comptroller who ran unsuccessfully against Michael Bloomberg for mayor in 2009.

We recently speculated about some of the tactics a 2010 commission could use to manipulate voters’ response to its charter proposals. Nothing we heard from Tuesday’s panelists leads us to believe our speculation was baseless.

With the Best of Intentions: Ending City Council Stipends

Elizabeth Benjamin, who writes The Daily Politics, a must-read political blog, cites Frank Lombardi’s Daily News report that several members of the City Council are foregoing the extra stipends—anywhere from $4,000 to $10,000 in so-called “lulus”—they could get for chairing a Council committee or subcommittee. Three of the members, Ydanis Rodriguez, Matthieu Eugene, and newcomer Jumaane Williams, are generously calling for their lulus to go to relief efforts in Haiti.

Benjamin reports that the good-government group “Citizens Union wants to get rid of the stipend system, arguing it is little more than a tool with which the speaker exerts control over rank-and-file members – bestowing favors on those who are loyal, and, as with [Councilman Charles] Barron, punishing those to step out of line.”

What Benjamin does not say is that the main beneficiary of ending the lulu system would be the mayor, who, without a powerful Speaker, would find it easier to reward or punish individual Council members to achieve mayoral goals. The Council as a body would find it harder to unify around an issue.

Due to a legal principle called the “doctrine of curtailment,” a change such as eliminating lulus might have to be made through a public referendum. A charter revision commission could call for such a referendum on November’s ballot. This is yet another reason for voters to be alert to how the charter revision game is played.