At the beginning of his second term, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the creation of a Charter Revision Commission. This group would hear public comment, make recommendations on how the New York City Charter could be improved, and create proposals that citizens would directly vote on in November 2018. The Commission is making its final decisions on what to put on the ballot right now and needs your input on how to improve the New York City Charter (details on how to do that, below).
You can read the full Preliminary Staff Report. Here are some of the issues that have been most requested by the earlier public sessions. (The Commission is really listening, so if you have opinions, please contact them).
Community Board Reform – Community Boards were written into the Charter in 1963 as a way for citizens to participate in neighborhood planning. Since then many CBs have shifted focus, vetoing Department of Transportation safety measures, and often are not representational of the communities they should serve. The Commission is considering term limits so that board members would only have 8 to 10 years of voting rights before they return to just giving public comment at the meetings like all other neighbors. The Commission is considering a a loop hole to the term limits, where a retried member could serve indefinitely as long as it was not consecutive.
Campaign Finance – From federal, state, and city corruption scandals, there is major calls for campaign finance reform. The Commission is considering proposing alterations to contribution limits, the public matching formula, and the matching funds cap.
Civic Engagement – Our Democracy fails when citizens are not engaged. The Commission decided to look into four areas to improve engagement through a new entity:
1. How such an entity or office could support, supplement, or coordinate the City’s existing efforts in this area, including the recently announced DemocracyNYC initiative;
2. How such an entity or office could facilitate the expansion of participatory budgeting while working within legal and operational constraints;
3. Where such an entity or office should be situated; and
4. Whether such an entity or office should have an independent, non-partisan, or other structure.
Municipal Elections in New York City – The most often heard concern was the need to increase voter participation. The Commission is considering modernizing the administration of elections, possibly through changes to voter registration processes and proposals to adopt early voting. To increase access to voting, there is consideration to change voter eligibility requirements or to remove practical barriers to voting experienced by immigrants and other vulnerable populations. There is even consideration to implement a ranked choice voting system to better capture voter preferences. Much of election law is decided at the New York State level, so there needs to consider legal and bureaucratic concerns with alerting one system and not the other.
The Districting Process – Districting is decided after the federal census (the next one happening in 2023). There are concerns that gerrymandering can help a candidate with a minority vote win an election or give an incumbent an unfair advantage. The Commission is interested in creating a process that respects demographic groups’ ability to elect someone who represents them.
How You Can Help
The best way to speak up on these issues is to go to a meeting in person. There are some great meetings coming up across the City:
Public Hearing (Bronx)
WHEN: Tuesday, July 24, 2018 at 6PM
WHERE: Hostos Community College, 120 East 149th Street, 2nd Floor, Bronx, NY 10451
Directions: Take the 4, 5, 6, or 2 train to 149 St. – Grand Concourse
Community Event: Greenmarket (Queens)
WHEN: Wednesday, July 25, 2018 from 9AM-11AM
WHERE: Astoria Greenmarket, 14th St & 31st Ave & 31st Road, Queens, NY 11106
Directions: Take the N or W to 30th Ave
Public Hearing (Brooklyn)
WHEN: Wednesday, July 25, 2018 at 6PM
WHERE: St. Francis College, 180 Remsen St, Brooklyn, NY 11201
Directions: Take the 2, 3, 4, or 5 train to Borough Hall; or the R train to Court St.; or the A, C to Jay St. – MetroTech Station
Public Hearing (Queens)
WHEN: Thursday, July 26, 2018 at 6PM
WHERE: Queens Borough Hall, 120-55 Queens Blvd, Kew Gardens, NY 11424
Directions: Take the E train to Union Turnpike – Kew Gardens Station
Public Hearing (Staten Island)
WHEN: Tuesday, July 31, 2018 at 6:30PM
WHERE: McKee High School, 290 St. Marks Place, Auditorium, Staten Island, NY 10301
Directions: After leaving the Staten Island terminal, head northwest. Turn right toward Wall St., turn left onto Wall St., and turn left onto St. Marks Place
If you can not make any of the meetings, please submit your opinions electronically here:
Changing the City’s Charter could be one of the most important actions we can take this year. The Commission has so far been very open and receptive to citizens’ concerns. This is a great opportunity to participate in our government and make a real difference, so please encourage your friends to get involved.