By David Brand
For the first time since 1989, New York City’s governing document will undergo significant changes after voters approved three charter revision ballot proposals on Tuesday.
New Yorkers flipped their ballots and voted overwhelmingly to institute community board term limits, lower the amount of money a candidate for a seat in city government is allowed to accept from a single donor and create a “Civic Engagement Commission” under the jurisdiction of the mayor.
The three measures were championed by Mayor Bill de Blasio and good government groups, though community board members, most Queens councilmembers and four borough presidents — including Queens Borough President Melinda Katz — resisted the community board term limit proposal. Katz and others said term limits would erode vital “institutional knowledge”
In a statement Wednesday, New York City Charter Revision Commission Chair Cesar A. Perales said the measures will “improve democracy in New York City.”
“Through meetings over months that spanned all five boroughs, the Charter Revision Commission was proud to meet New Yorkers in their neighborhoods to hear their ideas on how to make New York City a better place,” Perales said in a statement. “I'd like to thank our commissioners, members of the public, elected officials, good government groups and others who submitted ideas and thoughts. The Charter Revision process is one designed to engage New Yorkers about the future of their city and that is exactly what happened."
Ballot Proposal No. 1 will decrease the maximum individual contribution that candidates for citywide office — who participate in the city matching funds program — can receive from $5,100 to $2,000.
Ballot Proposal No. 2 will establish a “Civic Engagement Commission” under the jurisdiction of the mayor. The 15-person commission will introduce citywide participatory budgeting, an initiative that exists in a only some council districts, including Queens Council Districts 19, 22, 26, 27, 28, 29 and 31.
Ballot Proposal No. 3 — community board term limits — will ensure that the 50-member bodies more accurately reflect the demographics of their communities, de Blasio said.
“We’ve got to represent the composition of the community today not the community 30 or 40 years ago,” de Blasio said at a rally last Thursday. “I think It’s objectively fair to say that if you look at the numbers, a lot of communities . . . are just not represented by demographics, but by age.”