Council speaker Corey Johnson is supporting a bill that would create an independent commission to review the City Charter. The proposed examination will parallel but check the commission proposed by Mayor Bill de Blasio last month. The Mayor had announced, in his State of the City address, that he planned to appoint a charter review commission to seek out improvements to campaign finance laws, find ways to make elections more democratic, and to encourage stronger voter turnout. City lawmakers thought it was a good idea to examine the City Charter but were skeptical about having the job done by the Mayor. So now, two reviews of the city charter are in the works. One by the independent minded City Council, and one by the Mayor’s office.
“This is really about looking at the broad structure and checks and balances in our City Charter,” said Mr. Johnson, on Friday. He said that he would be glad to consolidate the two reviews, if the mayor would agree to join forces to complete the task in unison. “This isn’t personal against the mayor,” Mr. Johnson continued. “We would love to do it together with him.”
As reported by the NY Times, Johnson’s proposed bill would call upon the council to elect four members to the review commission, and the Mayor to elect another four. The borough presidents, the public advocate and the comptroller would each appoint one additional member. By contrast, de Blasio’s review committee members would all be appointed by the mayor, and according to mayoral spokesman Eric F. Phillips the members will soon be named. The mayor’s commission would propose charter changes that voters can deliberate on in November. The Council’s commission would propose its findings on the ballot the following year.
The committees could address balance of power between the mayor and the City Council, increased transparency in budgeting, city’s land use approval process, and a wide array of topics including Fair Share of Homeless Shelter placement. The last changes made to the Charter were proposed 30 years ago in 1989, and it was originally public advocate, Letitia James, and Manhattan borough president Gale A. Brewer who proposed a review of the charter.
“The mayor’s talked about what he wants his commission to look at before it’s been constituted, and we want a commission to go in with an open mind and look at the broad structure of city government,” said Mr. Johnson.
By: Hellen Zaboulani