Tag Archives: New York City government

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

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

Charter Commission Reveals Ballot Issues

Lorna B. Goodman

Mayor Michael Bloomberg will like what his charter revision commission plans to place on November’s ballot.

After a whirlwind round of 13 public hearings, meetings and panel discussions, and consideration of testimony from hundreds of individuals and groups, the 2010 NYC Charter Revision Commission has narrowed its ballot agenda to include term limits, which satisfies Bloomberg’s 2008 commitment to billionaire term limits advocate Ron Lauder, along with several other changes that could subtly shift power towards Bloomberg’s end of City Hall.

The selected issues are laid out in a July 9 staff report, which the commission will discuss at its 6:00 PM July 12 public meeting at the Surrogate’s Courthouse in Manhattan. 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: Hints of What’s to Come

Matthew Goldstein

Past practice suggests that charter revision chair Matthew Goldstein will use the commission’s June 24 forum on Land Use to signal what his panel will focus on as it moves into summer.

We — and others — have criticized the NYC Charter Revision Commission’s calendar, which delays publication of land use proposals until July. This is too late for most community boards to draw residents to public hearings to comment on any proposed changes. The commission must submit its final proposals to the City Clerk by Labor Day to get them on November’s ballot. 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

Brad Hoylman Responds

Brad Hoylman

Brad Hoylman took the time to phone us to explain his June 10 Charter Revision Commission invited testimony. He asked why we oppose his proposal — indistinguishable from that of Manhattan BP Scott Stringer — to force each community board to hire a planner to provide technical support on land use, transportation, liquor license, or sidewalk café issues.

Hoylman said having such a planner on staff would give community boards “teeth” — in our view, an overstatement — and would help boards “inhibit new development” as well as support it. Taking his assertions at face value, we tried to explain our concerns. Continue reading

Who is Brad Hoylman?

Brad Hoylman

The strongest push to hobble NYC’s community boards by forcing them to hire dedicated planners and revert to a narrower “planning board” role (an idea we strongly oppose) came not from Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, but from the former chairman of Manhattan Community Board 2, Brad Hoylman, who was one of five invited “experts” who spoke at the Charter Revision Commission’s June 10 session on Government Structure in Staten Island. Why the commission chose Hoylman as a featured guest became evident upon examination of his credentials. Continue reading