Three City Charter Reforms - Nov 6 View Online
City Charter Reform on The November 6, 2018 Ballot!
 
On November 6, 2018 there are three charter reforms that are being proposed. Here is MTOPP’s analysis and position on these three reforms.
 
If you think about the new Charter reforms being proposed, and who commissioned them to do the reforms then it becomes clear what is really being done.

This City Charter Reform was created by Mayor de Blasio. We already know how beholden he is to the Real Estate Industry as evident by the amount of investigations that has continued to plague his adminstration. Thus if you review these charter revisions from that perspective it is easy to see what is being sought.
Campaign Finance Reform
Reducing the amount of contributions to politician’s campaigns and increasing the amount of matching funds.

First you have to keep in mind that there are a lot of laws on the books that allow Politicians to get large sums of money from various sources.  For example, campaigning and collecting funds when you are not facing an opponent!  This allows existing elected officials to create large war chests that they can use later, if a challenger does come a few years down the line.
 
Thus the reducing of the contributions will only benefit the large, well machined candidates who have the real estate industry working behind them exercising all of those other loopholes.  Whereas the small candidates who truly must rely upon small contributions will be further hurt.  
 
For example, in the election campaign against Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo, she had three campaigns working for her. Her own, the Mayor’s and the Hotel Industry!!!  So a reduction in contributions to her campaign would not have made much of a difference, but with Ede, who was running against her, it would have been large since she had only one campaign!
 
MTOPP's  Position:
 MTOPP says no.  If real voting reform is wanted (and it is not) then all of these loopholes need to be eliminated not just campaign contributions.
Creation of New Community Engagement Agency.
This is suppose to be a government agency that will encourage more community engagement, foster more participation in elections and provide Community Boards with City Planners, (professionals who are suppose to know all about the rezoning laws etc..)
 
Now isn’t the community board suppose to be the place for community engagement? And why would you need a completely new government agency just to provide the community boards with planners

The answer is simple.  If you empowered community boards to hire their own planners, then the planners would be beholden to the community board and have their best interest at heart. 
 
However, if you allow another agency to do the hiring then those being hired would be beholden to that agency’s directives.  The Department of City Planning has such a bad reputation in communities all over the city that they are no longer trusted and in some community boards are told to get the hell out!   Now this new agency who’s leaders will be hired by the Mayor, will hire and then lend City Planners to community boards.
 
The rational is that the only reason community boards are saying no to all of these rezonings is because of ignorance. If they just understood all the benefits that would be gained from all the developments being proposed Community Boards would be more willing to agree to them
 
For example, when the City Planning Commission was reviewing the Brooklyn Botanic Garden rezoning to increase the heights on land that was downzone to protect the garden, the Department of City Planning blamed the no vote that  Community Board 9 gave because CB9 didn’t have a planner!  
 
But we we did.  We had Richard Birack, Borough President Eric Adams's planner, at every meeting, “giving” his expert opinion, that sometimes amounted to pure lies and half truths. But the proof is in the pudding, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand the devastating effects of rezoning, not when there are so many examples out in the world, including how the Department of City Planning will simply ignore all suggestions from the community despite all of those so called “community engagement” sessions!!!

MTOPP's Position:
 
MTOPP says no.. If you want to provide planners to community boards let the community board do the hiring.  And if you want more people to vote then let everyone vote in the primaries, instead of eliminating over one million people who can't vote because they don't belong to the Democratic party!!!

 
Term Limits on Community Boards
There are two points of view: The Upper White Middle Class Community Boards and the Community of Color Community Boards.

As has been the case since the inception of Community Boards and their empowerment in 1974, community boards have fared a lot better in white upper middle class neighborhoods than in communities of color.

White Upper Middle Class Community Boards
 
Community Board members in white upper class community boards are knowledgeable, know their stuff, have been around the block and have been a thorn in the real estate industry side, because of their unwillingness to let anything slide by them.
 
These board members are very strong and Borough Presidents have been unwilling to let them go because of the political consequences.  However, if term limits are introduced, then the Borough Presidents can not be blamed and then they will get to put who they want in, who will be beholden to their goals and not necessarily the goals of the community.
 
Thus term limits in White middle class communities may weaken these boards!

 

Communities of Color
What about communities of color, who’s boards are already weakened?  There have been countless complaints against these community boards and their members.  Serious violations of the law are done openly and no one does anything about it.  For the most part the board behaves like a private club with a few people running the whole thing for years, at the expense of the rest of the community. 
 
These open violations are tolerated by the City and Borough Presidents, to enable the political structure to get what they want from the board when they need it, i.e. rezoning requests.

 
In these communities people see term limits as a great opportunity to get rid of these long standing board members and to attempt to integrate and to diversify.  However based upon the experience of a Community Board (CB9) who had a major change in their members over the past four years ago, this may not be the answer, especially if the Borough President has his eyes on that community for rezonings.


An Example of Changing the Guard at a Community Board

 
In Community Board 9, (CB9)  Borough President Eric Adams, in 2014,  removed the long standing (30 years or more) board members (Jewish and White men),  and replaced them with Black folks who had the same agenda and motive - to rezone the community. However, not all of the new board members were apart of that intention and thus we have been successful at least of not having another rezoning request materialize at CB9, despite certain members of CB9 working all kinds of tricks to do so.
 
But our struggle hasn’t been easy, we have had to file at least seven lawsuits, we have demonstrated, we have filed complaints, we have been arrested and have decided to dedicate our entire lives to protecting this community against certain Community Board members who’s intention it is to fulfill Borough Hall’s mandate of rezoning for the real estate industry.
 
In fact, we lost one of our strongest allies, who was the first vice-chair of CB9 because she was a strong opponent against a massive rezoning.  She was removed off the board despite being an officer of the board, after only two years of service, whereas there were other board members who had been on the board for over 30 years, still there.
 
That means that even if community boards members are replaced, a lot of how that board will function will be determined by the Borough President and his/her agenda
 
MTOPP Position

MTOPP Says Yes. This was a hard one, because we don't want to see community boards weaken, but  if this city wanted true diversity then they would diversify who can place members on the Board. Right now all of the board members are placed there by the Borough President with only the City Council members making recommendations. Having City Council people make those appointments as well as the Borough President could go a long way to diversifying and ensuring that it is not just the Borough President’s agenda that will be followed.
 
What we know however is that true diversity can not happen when only one person is allowed to appoint and remove board members off of community boards and this is not going to change unless people really fight and demand it.

In the case of CB9 we do believe that having representatives that are on the board who reflect the majority of the residents in the community has empowered us to at least prevent a massive rezoning, where as if the board was still in the hands of those few we might be writing a different story.


 
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