Brooklyn Boro

Reynoso, Menchaca, Maisel, Lander weigh in on NYC Election Day charter revisions

October 26, 2018 Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Antonio Reynoso. Photo courtesy of Reynoso's office
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Antonio Reynoso, District 34: “The Mayor’s Charter Revision Commission will bring a number of long overdue changes to the City’s Charter, all of which will improve civic engagement among New Yorkers. I am pleased to see that measures are being taken to ensure that Community Boards are more reflective of the communities they serve and that new folks will be given the opportunity to participate. Furthermore, the increased public matching funds formula will bring our campaign finance system closer to a truly publicly funded system; strengthening our electoral process by further diversifying the pool of potential candidates. Finally, the creation of an Office of Civic Engagement will focus our efforts to increase voter turnout and engage as many New Yorkers as possible in our civic life, helping to strengthen our democracy and create a government that is responsive to the will of the electorate.”  

Carlos Menchaca, District 38: We have an opportunity with these three ballot initiatives to increase participation, accountability, and inclusiveness in our City’s governance. Consider the effects of each in turn.

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The first ballot measure would make it easier for people to run fully funded campaigns and challenge incumbents. Let’s accept reality – you need money to run for office, and most of those who succeed are already either well off, well connected, or need to rely on large donors to fund their campaigns. In a city that is dominated by one political party like ours, the negative effects of each is exacerbated, and incumbents lose a sense of accountability to their communities when challengers from within are unable to compete, even if their ideas and solutions are better, and even if they have the greatest grassroots support through small dollar donations. Voting yes for the first ballot measure will even that playing field, and the result is that more people from within communities will be able to challenge and defeat deadbeat incumbents as I did five years ago.

The second ballot measure, among other things, would make participatory budgeting a city-wide process. Participatory budgeting is one of the greatest innovations in governmental transparency and accountability. It was started eight years ago by City Council Members like myself who saw an opportunity to increase political participation by giving constituents the power to make certain budget decisions. And the results are phenomenal. In my own district last year, more people voted on ideas from their peers on how to spend some of their district’s dollars than they did in the primary elections. This shows the hunger and confidence among New Yorkers to make decisions about how we spend our money, and it’s also raised their consciousness about how unaccountable the process is without the Mayor’s buy in. Voting yes for the second ballot measure means every Mayor will by law have to make that commitment, and a commission will be set up that allows the people, through their elected officials, to hold the Mayor accountable and direct that process.

The third ballot measure would make community boards more reflective and inclusive of the communities they represent. The main mechanism for doing so is by setting term limits for a body of governance that currently has none. Concerns about the loss of institutional knowledge and vulnerability are understandable but overblown. Term limits only affect a person’s ability to be a voting member of the board, not a participant in its deliberations, which means institutional knowledge is preserved. Further, any person who serves their full four terms can wait two years and then become a voting member again, with no limits on that process. This affords new voices an opportunity to lead, and with new guidelines established by the measure, ensure that Borough Presidents make diversity and inclusion a leading priority in appointments, while standardizing and making transparent that appointment process. Voting yes for ballot measure three will encourage community boards to have the same diversity that is sweeping through the Council.

Alan Maisel, District 46: The ballot measure proposed by the Charter Revision Commission, while well-intended, with the goal of creating diversity, would in actuality dilute the institutional knowledge of the community boards, the last recourse against over-development and predatory actors.

Brad Lander, District 39:This November, we have an opportunity to do something important in NYC. To strengthen our local democracy. To turbo-charge civic engagement. To expand participatory budgeting city-wide. To improve our campaign finance rules. Which is why I strongly support the Charter Revision ballot proposals, and I’m hoping New Yorkers across the city will pledge to vote for them. We have a real chance to take civic responsibilities beyond voting and jury duty by creating a Commission on Civic Engagement — an endeavor I’ve long supported — and expanding participatory budgeting city-wide. We can reduce the corrupting influence of money in NYC politics and empower small donors by reducing contribution limits and expanding matching funds for small-dollar contributions. And we can make community boards more accessible to everyone. I want to thank the Mayor’s Charter Revision Commission for their extensive and open process to develop these proposals, and I urge all New Yorkers to vote for them.” 

Councilmembers Rafael Espinal Jr. (District 37) and Mathieu Eugene (District 40) declined to comment. Councilmembers Stephen Levin (District 33), Laurie Cumbo (District 35), Robert Cornegy Jr. (District 36), Alicka Ampry-Samuel (District 41), Inez Barron (District 42), Justin Brannan (District 43), Kalman Yeger (District 44), Jumaane Williams (District 45), Mark Treyger (District 47) and Chaim Deutsch (District 48) did not respond to requests for comment.


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