Charter Commission Told To Slow Down
The New York City Charter Revision Commission completed an initial threeweek trip through the five boroughs on April 20, holding public meetings and hearings to reach out and solicit ideas and recommendations on the City Charter.
The 15-member Charter Revision Commission was appointed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg on March 3 and charged with the task of reviewing the entire City Charter with an eye toward possible amendments to be voted on. This will be the first major Charter review since 1989.
Among potential areas for revision are term limits, non-partisan elections, mayoral succession (currently the Public Advocate succeeds the mayor) and land use.
City Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, representing the 26th Council District in Long Island City, where the Queens public meetings/hearing was held at LaGuardia Community College on April 19, said it was important “we not rush this thing through”.
There is speculation that Bloomberg is in favor of the Commission finishing its work by September with recommendations for amendments to the City Charter ready to go before city voters in the November 2010 election.
“The election this November is too soon,” said Van Bramer. “An extra year, or two, should be given to ensure any proposals be given due consideration.”
Queens Borough President Helen Marshall agreed. “I strongly urge the Commission not to rush any major changes. The ultimate goal should be to better serve the people.”
CUNY Chancellor Dr. Matthew Goldstein, chairperson of the Charter Revision Commission, in his opening remarks said the Commission was “not in a hurry”. “We are deeply committed to an open and welcoming process of public engagement,” he said, promising there would be “more to come”.
“There will be additional issues forums to follow in May and June, in addition to public hearings and meetings throughout the summer,” Goldman said.
There is no indication the Charter Revision Commission will continue beyond that time frame. In contrast, the 1989 Charter Revision Commission took almost three years. Recommendations from that Commission increased the size and power of the City Council.
“The changes and anything we put before the voters must be given time,” said Van Bramer, urging that the Commission hold “many more hearings over an extended period of time”.
“Queens is a large borough with millions of people,” Van Bramer continued. “With all due respect, [Queens] is not represented by this large crowd tonight. This is not ten percent of people in Queens who care about this issue.”
Marshall said the “hurried manner” in which the Commission was appointed and scheduled meetings gave her concern and how the Commission was appointed, adding that borough presidents should be allowed to make appointments.
Goldstein has said the Commission must adhere to an “independent process”.
All 15 members were appointed by Bloomberg. Two of the mayor’s appointees, Ernest Hart, chief operating officer for the Columbia University Medical Center, and Bishop Mitchell G. Taylor, senior pastor of Center of Hope International, are Queens residents.