New Yorkers Must Engage In Charter Review Process

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What's mayor Michael Bloomberg up to?

Mayor Bloomberg appointed the latest charter revision commission, March 3, 2010. This commission will review the city's existing charter, which is similar to the by-laws and articles of incorporation for a nonprofit.

The last charter revision was done in 1989. The issue is what is prompting Mayor Bloomberg to want to tweak the charter again? He has already succeeded in: extending term limits; cutting community board budgets by one-third; bringing the New York City Department of Education under mayoral control; joining the Administration for Children Services with the Department of Juvenile Justice--the department that operates three secure juvenile detention centers; and, he's moved to close unionized publicly-funded child care centers while bringing in Philadelphia-based child care enterprise Bright Star (possibly non-unionized in NYC).

So, New Yorkers need to listen and participate in the process. After all, New Yorkers will vote on the changes Election Day November 2. It behooves New Yorkers to know the names and backgrounds of the 11 men and four women who comprise the commission.

The public hearing in Brooklyn is slated for Tuesday, April 20, 2010 at St. Francis College at 180 Remsen Street, 4:00 - 6:00 PM-- and the public meeting follows thereafter. The Queens public hearing and meeting was Monday, April 19 at LaGuardia Community College. How many people are aware that public hearings and meetings occurred in New York, the Bronx and Staten Island earlier in April?

Items for review include the continued existence of the 59 community boards, the public advocate’s office and the five offices of the borough president. Community boards were given formal governmental roles in 1975--through charter revision--to include average residents in budgetary, land use, and city service delivery decisions.

Community boards review NYS Liquor Authority license applications for bars, restaurants and cabarets. The office of the borough president was a critical selling feature to get five cities to become one. With a population over 2.4 million in Brooklyn and over 2.2 million in Queens, it is readily understood how important it is to maintain the borough president position for managing public services, structures and employees.

The public advocate is an elected position and is an ex-officio member of all NYC council committees. The current public advocate, Bill de Blasio was a council member who chaired the general welfare committee. Should this position be eliminated, New Yorkers lose another means to have their concerns positively addressed.

Mayor Bloomberg, in his March 3, 2010 press release, "charged the commission with examining the changes made by the 1988 and 1989 Charter Revision Commissions, and other subsequent changes, in light of the lessons learned over the past two decades and the new challenges and opportunities that have since arisen."

This event is an opportunity to include New York residents in the process. What must be in place is media coverage, on-the-ground outreach to New Yorkers and frequent open public forums. When the changes go to a public vote in November will New Yorkers be informed voters?

As of April 20, 2010, the Charter Revision Commission Web site doesn't post public hearings and meetings beyond April.

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