On Tuesday, Nov. 6, voters will be asked to approve or disapprove of the mayor’s select Charter Revision Commission’s three proposals (the equivalent of a city constitution). One should note that the mayor raced the city council in offering the proposals. Following Election Day, the city council will more seriously begin its efforts, which may result in additional or counter-proposals for next year’s Election Day.
In considering the three proposals up for consideration, one needs an historical perspective. Not too long ago, all power rested in the office of the mayor. But then, in an era that believed that decentralization better assured that local voices were heard, city services were structured so that there were officials from many agencies specifically assigned to participate in each community board’s local service cabinet, where they could hear and respond to local needs.
Interestingly, the second and third ballot questions represent a new battleground between the mayor and the five borough presidents.
Under Proposal 2, services already provided through the offices of the borough presidents would be centralized under a new Civic Engagement Commission. Where the funds for this new agency will come from, or how large that budget will be, is unknown.
However, it is obvious that there will once again be competition for city support among community boards. Interestingly most of the battles community boards have are battles against the mayor and his agencies.
Will a mayoral agency provide resources and support for a battle against the mayor? I think not. This is further supported by the fact that right after the proposals were made public, the mayor’s law office proclaimed that community boards were to be silenced and could not publicly lobby, as a board, for or against the proposals.
Thus, this letter is written by me, as a citizen, not in my capacity as a member of Community Board 8. However, it must be noted that before the law office’s proclamation was released, CB8 had already voted in opposition to the second and third proposals.
Proposal 3 seeks to impede the borough presidents’ authority by mandating term limits for board members. While I don’t know how this proposal, if passed, will impact me, I note that borough presidents make all the appointments with recommendations for half of the appointments coming from the city council members.
I cannot be sure, over the years, whose recommendation I was, but I have been appointed by borough presidents Robert Abrams, Stanley Simon, Fernando Ferrer, Adolfo Carrión Jr., and Ruben Diaz Jr. I have been recommended by city council members June Eisland, Oliver Koppell and Andrew Cohen.
There must have been some consideration that my amassed experience and activity on the board was of some value to my community.
My concern with term limits is that the communities served will lose institutional memory, and be less well served. In land use, for example, returning developers who may or may not have kept their word, will be supported by a cadre of attorneys, architects and other professionals as they face off against neophyte board members who may be disadvantaged.
Remember that many of our battles have been against the mayor and his agencies.
Once again, as an individual citizen, I suggest that the two resolutions will do more damage to our local community than help.
The author is chair of Community Board 8’s law, rules and ethics committee.