There is a voter turnout problem in the Bronx.
Not just in how few people take the time to vote in local and presidential elections. But when it comes to Community Board 8, too.
At least that’s what it looked like April 19, when the board voted to make Michael Heller their new district manager. Out of 37 eligible members, only 21 cast a ballot — just enough to meet CB8’s quorum requirements.
To paint a broader picture, turnout for the 2016 presidential election — which reached its lowest point since 1996 — was just above 55 percent.
By comparison, less than 54 percent of community board members showed up to vote for Heller. That’s just one person more than the required 50 percent attendance needed to even start a typical meeting.
Although 26 CB8 members showed up last month, both Heller and Lisa Daub abstained because they both had been considered for the job. But David Kornbluh and Amy Joy Robateau didn’t have that excuse. Instead, they all had to “move their cars” just before votes were cast at around 9:30 p.m., according to CB8 chair Daniel Padernacht.
While it is not exactly against CB8’s rules to miss board meetings, it is an odd occurrence for 13 board members to miss the same meeting while three others were dealing with parking issues. And all of it taking place when the board was deciding not only who is going to be the public face of the community board, but also who is going to earn an annual $75,000 paycheck.
In the year prior to the Heller vote, average attendance at monthly board meetings was about 72 percent.
Just before January, however, that average dropped to 62 percent during which time the board has not had more than 28 members at any of their monthly meetings.
Among those board members missing on April 19 were Sergio Villaverde and Mary Yamagata, both of whom were at the April 5 executive committee meeting where the district manager position was discussed.
None of the missing board members The Press tried to contact were willing to comment. Yet one board member, who asked not to be named, suggested some of his colleagues simply may not have known the district manager position was up for discussion, since that meeting’s agenda didn’t explicitly state it.
Instead, the April 19 agenda said only there would be a “discussion of the executive committee meeting minutes,” and nothing specifically about a district manager vote.
It remains unclear if CB8 members were informed they’d be voting on the district manager position and salary on April 19. What is clear, though, is that The Press ran a front-page story April 14 — nearly a full week before the meeting — announcing the district manager vote would take place the following week.
That same story reported Heller as the presumptive hire for the district manager position.
Heller has been on the board for seven years, during which time he chaired the transportation committee. But his professional life seems to suggest a profound amount of experience that could benefit a district manager. He has more than three decades of experience in community and public affairs, which should serve Heller well when he finally takes over in a job largely made up of complaint-taking.
He also had the public support of local elected officials like Councilman Andrew Cohen and Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, both who maintained they played no role advocating for Heller, but still telling The Press he would be “overqualified for the job.”
CLARIFICATION: Community Board 8 member Julie Reyes participated in the vote to select Michael Heller the board’s new district manager. A story in last week’s edition stated otherwise.