Queens Borough Hall//NYC.gov

NYC Charter Revision Commission Holds Public Hearing at Borough Hall

Victoria Merlino

Speak up and shape the city.

The New York City Charter Revision Commission will hold a public hearing tonight at 6 p.m. Queens Borough Hall, located at 20-55 Queens Blvd in Kew Gardens. The commission seeks suggestions from Queens residents on how to revise the document that defines and outlines civic life in the city.

The public hearing is part of the five-borough Charter Week, a series that seeks to gain input from various community stakeholders on what they would like to see the commission address in a revised charter.

Last night, the commission held its first Queens hearing at the Astoria Greenmarket.

The commission’s effort would marks the first large-scale charter overhaul since 1989 and the potential changes — from revised campaign finance laws to instituting community board term limits — could have a major impact on the structure and make-up of city government.

In its preliminary report, the commission focused on five main policy areas brought forth by written testimony and idea forums from constituents and city stakeholders. The policy areas include campaign finance, municipal elections, civic engagement, community boards and the redistricting process.

In the realm of campaign finance, the commission recommended more public input on reducing contribution limits, strengthening public finance and increasing the cap on public matching funds.

To address voter engagement in local elections, the commission asks for public feedback on how the city could better respond voters. They specifically suggested enhancing language-assistance materials and tweaking elements of voting procedures, such as the possible inclusion of ranked choice voting for local primaries. In the report, however, the commission’s members said voter engagement might be better addressed at the state level. Commission members also ask for input on whether a civic engagement office or entity should be created and how the office could be structured.

Community Board members would face term limits under the proposed changes of the preliminary report to better represent the makeup of their communities, and would be provided additional resources and support, especially for urban planning.

The commission would also like more input and information about the redistricting process and its impact on the voting power of racial and ethnic minority groups. The 2020 Census, which could include a citizenship question, will have a significant impact on district data.

The 15-member commission was appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio, and is separate from another charter revision commission that was appointed by the New York City Council. While de Blasio’s commission was given the imperative to focus on campaign finance and voter engagement, the City Council commission has a much broader purview.

The de Blasio commission said it will share its recommendations in time to make the November ballot. Meanwhile, the city council commission has a longer timeline and is aiming to have its recommendations on the November 2019 ballot.

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