Vote ‘No’ on 3

The Mayor’s Charter Revision Commission has been criticized for failing to take on larger issues and ultimately focusing on smaller matters. Nevertheless, the issues that will be on the ballot on Tues., Nov. 6, do have a very real potential to impact the city in a big way.

Ballot proposal No. 3, for example, would impose term limits on community boards. Board members would only be allowed to serve four two-year terms in a row. They could, however, return to the board after a two-year break, and they could continue serving as public members on board committees, and continue contributing their expertise in that way. There would, of course, be no guarantee that they would ever be reappointed, though.

Yes, there are admittedly some veteran  board members who appear to wield excessive power in their particular bailiwicks, whether it be development, parks, the waterfront or liquor licenses and nightlife. In some cases, board members have been reined in by rulings by the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board — though to this day, some continue to stubbornly insist the rulings were wrong.

Be that as it may, on balance, the veteran members of our community boards really should be admired and valued for the dedication they have invested in our communities over the years. These are volunteer positions. The meetings are usually at night, and there’s a lot of work that needs to be done outside of the meetings, writing up resolutions and conferring on the issues, doing site visits to piers or parks and so forth.

Above all, the boards, and we mean ones with experienced members — as our local politicians point out in this week’s issue of the Villager — are a very real check on the power of developers and their lawyers, who could easily steamroll less-experienced members.

Manhattan is ground zero for capital and development — both domestic and foreign — and as Borough President Gale Brewer says, the boards are both our offense and defense against our neighborhoods being bulldozed right under our feet.

The Villager supports voting “No” on ballot proposal No. 3 on Nov. 6.

On ballot issue No. 1, we support voting “Yes.” The proposal would lower the maximum dollar amount for campaign contributions for citywide races from $5,100 to $2,000, while also increasing the amount the city pays out in matching funds. This will open the process of running for office to more candidates. Assemblymember Deborah Glick — speaking against the proposal — has noted that candidates can set themselves apart from the pack by showing strong fundraising within the district, signaling a solid base of local support. That said, we feel these proposed changes would help level the playing field — and that’s a good thing.

On ballot issue No. 2, the creation of a Civic Engagement Commission, we also back voting “Yes.” This commission would promote citywide participatory budgeting — where constituents get to vote on which important neighborhood projects receive funding — and also would make more land-use and planning resources available to community boards. Local boards and Brewer object on this last point, saying these resources would be “duplicative” of existing ones at the boards, but we’re not exactly sure how or why more would be worse.

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