Friday, March 05, 2010

Mighty Quinn

We have certainly had our differences with Council Speaker Chris Quinn-in particular her less than aggressive check on mayoral power-but, if Daily Politics is correct, she seems to be evolving in just the right direction. Here's her critique of the charter revision process: "The charter revision commission process "tilts too sharply toward mayoral power" and is in need of greater checks and balances between the executive and "other branches of government," Council Speaker Christine Quinn says. Quinn made that allegation in written testimony she submitted to a hearing held today by Assemblyman Jim Brennan, who chairs the Standing Committee on Cities. (She did not appear in person)."

The problem, as Quinn points out, is that by allowing for a mayoral veto of what gets on the ballot, the executive is given too much sway over the process-and, as a result, a dampening of the popular will: "The speaker voiced particular support for an Assembly bill that would repeal the so-called "bumping" provision of the Municipal Home Rule Law that allows the commission to effectively block another referendum from the ballot. Quinn called the provision "bad policy," adding: "(T)he ability of the mayor to block a citizen or Council-initiated ballot proposal he or she finds undesirable simply by appointing a charter revision commission curtails the power of the Legislature and of the people." It also cheapens legitimate charter revisions, which, in most cases, are carried out in a thoughtful manner by dedicated New Yorkers volunteering their time."

Put simply, the mayor already has way too much power-and when the incumbent sitting chief executive is the city's richest man, the potential for the abuse of power increases exponentially. The referendum process does need to be more robust-and if it is, it will encourage a more engaged citizenry.

And we like one proposed legislative initiative in particular: "There's also another proposal, which hasn't yet been introduced, that would enable the Council to block a charter revision commission proposal from being placed on the ballot. by a 2/3 vote."

Anything that makes the council more of an equal branch of government is a good thing-but if the speaker finds her community organizer voice, a giant first step towards the proper checking of mayoral excess will have been undertaken without any charter changes whatsoever.