It’s difficult right now to think of anything but coronavirus. But believe it or not, even with New York on lockdown, the world outside continues to move forward. Even government — or at least the closest we can get to government at the neighborhood level.
This summer, Community Board 8 will elect a new chair to succeed Rosemary Ginty, who presided over some good times, and some challenging ones as well — many of her own making.
Unless someone else decides to drop their name in the hat, that next chair will either be Laura Spalter or Sergio Villaverde, two longtime public servants who have certainly earned their credentials on the community board.
It’ll be the first truly contested election for the volunteer advisory group’s top spot since 2014 when traffic and transportation committee chair Dan Padernacht defeated then vice chair Maria Khury — a result that invited some controversy after Khury charged the board could not bring itself to elect a Dominican woman to its top spot.
Padernacht would win his next two terms without a serious challenge, and Ginty succeeded him with no fireworks.
So in June, board members will decide between continuing many of the policies that Ginty put in place over her three years at the helm through Spalter, or trying something new with Villaverde, a U.S. Coast Guard Reserve commander and former New York Police Department cop who is now a family law attorney.
Except when it’s time to vote, one of them is going to have a significant advantage over the other. No, it won’t be a “June surprise” or some other election trick. Instead, it’s going to be an endorsement from a small committee of five people serving as a nominating committee.
Such committees aren’t unique to CB8, or any board, really. They are important because this hardworking group does all the research and conducts all the interviews, so that the rest of the board doesn’t have to. It’s a great qualifying tool to fill leadership roles of a dozen or so committees, like public safety and housing.
But it’s also used to recommend larger officeholders like chair and vice chair.
The question is why? The CB8 chair is the chief executive of the board. She or he has all kinds of authority, and is responsible for steering the ship, so to speak. It’s not a decision that should be taken lightly, nor one made through an apathetic action of leaving it up to five people on a nominating committee.
Even if apathy wasn’t involved, it’s hard to discount a recommendation by a committee who did research and conducted interviews. If they did all that and felt one candidate was better than the other, then who’s to argue?
Yet, you should be arguing. You should make your own decision. It shouldn’t be influenced by any committee, even an officially sanctioned one.
Trying to win support by 50 people for a candidate is hard. But five people? That’s quite manageable, and opens such practices up for abuse.
The CB8 nominating committee isn’t required to recommend candidates for major offices like chair and vice chair. So let’s try something different this election — let’s let the board itself decide. Let them hear from the candidates. Let them weigh pros and cons.
The community board is more than capable of making tough decisions without any help. It can elect its next leader all on its own.