2010-05-14 / Top Stories

November Vote Likely On City Charter Changes

By Howard Schwach

Rockaway voters could have the chance this fall to make major changes in the balance of power in city government and the way the city does business; overhaul development procedures; and possibly make city elections nonpartisan, as a panel appointed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg examines an update to the city constitution.

Bloomberg appointed a charter review commission earlier this year, following up on a promise he made when he persuaded the City Council to change the term limits law in 2008 so he could seek a third term.

The term limits law is one of five issues the group included Monday on a list of five things it is planning to study. The others are development procedures; doing away with the borough presidents, public advocate and community boards; making city elections nonpartisan; and bringing integrity and transparency to city government.

The list was formulated after a round of public hearings this spring during which about 180 people testified, but no decision has yet been made about which of those issues, if any, will appear on the November ballot.

“These are the issues that the public told us they want to look at,” said Lorna Goodman, executive director of the commission. The commission will hold forums on the five issues through May and June and produce a report in July, said the panel’s chairman, Matthew Goldstein, chancellor of the City University of New York.

More hearings will then be held and voters will know by late August or early September what, if anything, will be on the ballot. The panel could also decide it needs more time and put off any referendum questions until the next election cycle. The commission includes people from a cross section of government and outside groups.

All members were appointed by Mr. Bloomberg, which, critics say, makes it impossible for charter review panels to be independent. “Appointees vote the way their appointer dictates,” said Bill McCarthy, a Staten Island resident who testified at a hearing last month. “If that’s going to be the case with you ... you can probably go home tonight and save yourself a lot of trouble.”

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