Let them eat cheesecake!
That was Borough President Markowitz mantra to members of the New York City Charter Revision Commission last Thursday as members held its first public hearing to discuss possible changes to how the city is governed.
Efforts to revamp what is essentially New York City’s Constitution officially got underway at New York City Technical College on Jay Street, where Markowitz pushed for more power to the borough presidents, and others staked a claim for additional responsibility.
“I’m not trying to bribe you [to] expand the [power of the] borough president,” the three-term executive quipped, as he handed out Junior’s cheesecake to every member of the commission.
The 14-member team, chaired by City University of New York Chancellor Matthew Goldstein, agreed to a “core set of values” intended to help guide them throughout the rest of the revision process, as well as a “very aggressive” timetable that could place new proposals before voters when they go to the polls in November.
Cash-strapped community boards around the borough have been anticipating the Charter Revision Commission for months, hoping it doesn’t mean they’ll soon be joining school boards in the dust bin of New York City history.
To wit, Community Board 15 Chair Theresa Scavo conceded that she doesn’t expect anyone to speak up for the community boards.
“Everybody’s out for themselves,” she said later.“The public advocate is going to worry about thepublic advocate. I hope that when the time comes and they start talking about community boards everybody is going to rally behind them.”
Indeed, at the meeting, letters from New York City Comptroller John Liu’s office implored the commission to “expand the responsibilities of the city comptroller’s office.”
Meanwhile, members of All-Stars Project, Inc. — a non-profit performance arts group targeting disadvantaged youth — urged the creation of non-partisan elections, citing the city’s large number of young, independent voters.
Goldstein simply promised to do right by the city.
“Are we omniscient? No,” he said of Mayor Bloomberg’s hand-picked panel. “Are we thoughtful? Yes.”
As Charter Revision Commission chair, Goldstein promised “extensive” public hearings throughout the five boroughs during the entire revision process.
“To do otherwise would be an injustice,” Goldstein said.
The initial round of public hearings, where private citizens will have the opportunity to weigh in on the future of city government, are expected to take place at local venues (still to be determined) the week of April 26.
Those hearings will be followed by a series of “expert forums” and more hearings in mid-May.
A draft report on the commission’s findings up to that time is expected by the end of June. More hearings are planned for July, and a final report, along with the last round of public hearings, is slated for August.
At that point, the commission will have until Sept. 3 to notify the City Clerk’s Office and the Board of Elections about any charter revision proposals it might want to introduce, or to simply continue working.
Goldstein suggested utilizing CUNY’s network of 23 campuses around the city for public hearings. All-Star Project, Inc.’s Loretta Martin and her group urged public hearings at more familiar neighborhood locales like Thomas Jefferson HS in East New York.
“You’d get more parents to come,” Martin said.
The last Charter Revision Commission was seated in 2005 and yielded two proposals involving fiscal stability and administrative tribunals.