NEW YORK (FOX5NY.COM) - New York may get the first chance to rewrite the city charter in nearly 30 years. The question is, will voters want to?
Mayor Bill de Blasio formed a commission that created an initiative called Flip Your Ballot. On the back of the ballot are several questions voters will need to consider. (See below for the official ballot language.)
Question 1 is about a change to campaign donation limits allowing an increase in public matching dollars for small contributions from six to eight times the donated amount.
Question 2 is about forming a civic engagement commission tasked with putting translators at polling sites and increasing civic engagement.
Question 3 is about instituting term limits for community board members, allowing for four terms of two years each.
Comptroller Scott Stringer said all but the campaign finance proposal is—in his words—bogus.
"This is ridiculous—you don't term limit volunteers," Stringer said. "The proposal may sound good, it may make you feel good but this is just a mayoral-City Council power grab."
Stringer began his political career as a community board member. He said he feels as though limiting terms would eventually erase institutional knowledge.
"The less institutional memory you have on these boards, the more the developers and the lobbyists have control of the land-use of our city," Stringer said.
The ballot initiatives were presented to the public by way of six months of public hearings. But Stringer said the hearings were not well attended and so the public may not know exactly what is at stake.
"Remember telephone booths?" he said. "You could fit the number of people who testified in a telephone booth."
But the mayor and his supporters believe these measures will invite fresh blood and new ideas into an old and sometimes antiquated way of doing business. If the ballot measures pass, they will take effect on April 1, 2019.
OFFICIAL BALLOT LANGUAGE
Proposal Number One, a Question: Campaign Finance
This proposal would amend the City Charter to lower the amount a candidate for City elected office may accept from a contributor. It would also increase the public funding used to match a portion of the contributions received by a candidate who participates in the City's public financing program. In addition, the proposal would make public matching funds available earlier in the election year to participating candidates who can demonstrate need for the funds. It would also ease a requirement that candidates for Mayor, Comptroller, or Public Advocate must meet to qualify for matching funds. The amendments would apply to participating candidates who choose to have the amendments apply to their campaigns beginning with the 2021 primary election, and would then apply to all candidates beginning in 2022. Shall this proposal be adopted?
Proposal Number Two, a Question: Civic Engagement Commission
This proposal would amend the City Charter to: Create a Civic Engagement Commission that would implement, no later than the City Fiscal Year beginning July 1, 2020, a Citywide participatory budgeting program established by the Mayor to promote participation by City residents in making recommendations for projects in their communities; Require the Commission to partner with community based organizations and civic leaders, as well as other City agencies, to support and encourage civic engagement efforts; Require the Commission to establish a program to provide language interpreters at City poll sites, to be implemented for the general election in 2020; Permit the Mayor to assign relevant powers and duties of certain other City agencies to the Commission; Provide that the Civic Engagement Commission would have 15 members, with 8 members appointed by the Mayor, 2 members by the City Council Speaker and 1 member by each Borough President; and Provide for one of the Mayor's appointees to be Commission Chair and for the Chair to employ and direct Commission staff. Shall this proposal be adopted?
Proposal Number Three, a Question: Community Boards
This proposal would amend the City Charter to: Impose term limits of a maximum of four consecutive full two-year terms for community board members with certain exceptions for the initial transition to the new term limits system; Require Borough Presidents to seek out persons of diverse backgrounds in making appointments to community boards. The proposal would also add new application and reporting requirements related to these appointments; and If Question 2, "Civic Engagement Commission," is approved, require the proposed Civic Engagement Commission to provide resources, assistance, and training related to land use and other matters to community boards. Shall this proposal be adopted?
Source: The Board of Elections in the City of New York