Tag Archives: Hope Cohen

Surprise: Charter Commission to Give More Power to the Mayor

NYC Charter Revision: They didn’t say it in so many words, but the 2010 Charter Revision Commission members are heading in the direction of giving the mayor even more power than Mike Bloomberg has today — at the expense of the City Council and government transparency.

How: by creating a new “reporting commission,” putatively to get rid of unnecessary advisory bodies and trim the number of reports the mayor has to submit each year. Some of those reports are not used. But the charter revision commission would give the new reporting commission the power to review (and reject?) any future City Council decision to “extend or enhance” a report the mayor already provides.

Because a majority of the members of the reporting commission would be appointed by — you guessed it — the mayor, he would be able to frustrate the Council if it wants to ask for additional information from his agencies: a loss for the Council and transparency, and a gain for him. Continue reading

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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

Matthew Goldstein: NYC Needs Real Estate Development

Matthew Goldstein

Chairman Matthew Goldstein used a discussion about community benefits agreements (CBAs) at the charter revision commission’s June 24 Land Use forum in Queens to voice his conviction that real estate development and growth are essential to New York City’s economic future. He did not use the session to reveal which issues his commission will place on November’s ballot.

CBAs are “side deals” by which a real estate developer may agree to provide a public benefit to a community group, e.g., jobs, loans, unrelated contracts, in return for its support of a project. They are unregulated private agreements, negotiated by private parties outside of the ULURP framework, and can substantially increase a project’s cost. Continue reading

Charter Revision: What to Expect in May

Kingsbridge Armory

The populist image conveyed by the charter revision commission’s April public hearings will fade in May when invited “consultants, ” commission members, and staff publicly dissect the legalistic, technical, and detailed language of the City Charter at a series of “issue forums.” What are some of the technical issues the experts will examine?

According to commission chair Matthew Goldstein, one prominent goal of this year’s commission will be to find ways to improve “efficiency” in city government. Almost certainly, this will involve identifying procedural and structural changes that can create a more development-friendly environment and help future mayors control key land use decisions. Such changes would seek to prevent recurrence of events such as Mayor Bloomberg’s recent loss to the City Council on the Kingsbridge Armory Mall project in The Bronx, where a dispute over wage rates caused the Council to reject the initiative. Continue reading