Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Charting an Error of Commission

We have been charting the vagaries of the Charter Revision Commission and must come to the conclusion that the entire episode was a colossal waste of time and money-and a monument to the solipsistic behavior of the mayor. Having over turned the will of the voters on term limits, he constructed a charter revision line up that must have missed the message of the day-and, having done so, has concocted an unappetizing gruel that the voters of NYC should spit right on in November.

Make no mistake about it, when the voters passed two term limits referendum they made it very clear where they stood-and the three term shuffle that the current commissioners have put before the voters bears little resemblance to the popular sentiment. City Pragmatist has been doing an excellent job following all of the sleight of hand: "The proposals being placed on November’s ballot by the New York City Charter Revision Commission don’t offer voters real choice. The commission has restricted options by lumping the changes into just two ballot questions, putatively because this year’s new paper voting forms are too small to show the proposals individually."

The NY Times reinforces this this morning: "Two years after Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg extended the limit on New York City’s elected officials from two terms to three, paving the way for his re-election, nearly three-fourths of city voters favor reversing his move, according to a New York Times poll....The commission, however, decided to shield sitting city officials from any change. Under the proposal on the ballot, those already in office would be given a chance to serve three terms even if voters approved a two-term limit. The Times poll shows that voters overwhelmingly oppose that exemption. Sixty-one percent said that whatever they adopt in November should apply to incumbents, not just newly elected officials; 29 percent think current officeholders should be excluded."

Generally when we feed our dog his pill, we do the same thing-we disguise it amidst all of the other good things he likes to eat. But in the case of the Charter Commission, no subterfuge will disguise that all of this mess is a much too bitter pill to swallow-and voters should vote NO on everything.

First there is the term limits amalgam-and we'll follow the City Pragmatist on this question-with a tip of the hat to their labeling of the proposal as, "Matthew Goldstein's Hobson's Choice." "The proposals being placed on November’s ballot by the New York City Charter Revision Commission don’t offer voters real choice. The commission has restricted options by lumping the changes into just two ballot questions, putatively because this year’s new paper voting forms are too small to show the proposals individually. A lot can happen between now and 2021. We don’t think Question 1 deserves your vote."

We're much better off waiting for the next mayor to fully resolve this issue in the way the voters had originally wanted. And the need to give this commission's ideas the bum rush is even more pronounced with Question 2 on the ballot-a wolf's proposal in the sheep'
s clothing of, "governmental reform." There are a number of irrelevant proposals in this question, but two stand out in all of their perniciousness.

You see, the same mayor who couldn't push his chosen people to simply promote a clear cut two term limit-after all, they are independent, aren't they?-managed  to get these muñecos to re-introduce his administrative tribunal proposal that will further empower the Bloomberg regulatory state. CP captures this essence:

"City Administrative Tribunals: Authorize the Mayor to direct the merger of administrative tribunals and adjudications into the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings and permit the Department of Consumer Affairs to adjudicate all violations issued by that department;
This is about more centralization of mayoral control, and about applying a “one size fits all” approach to diverse agencies through the unified selection and training of Administrative Law Judges. It may violate collective bargaining agreements. It also could make it easier for future mayors to use their political influence to control ALJ selection or assignment. Not a good idea."

But it would do more than even that-and the folks at City Pragmatist missed the import of the DCA adjudication clause. This is something that Bloomberg has been trying to do for years-having first failed in his original charter boat disaster in 2003; and subsequently failing again and again in the legislative route.

As we commented a few years ago:

"On Tuesday the City Council will be holding a hearing on Intro 201, a measure that would expand the current regulatory authority of the DCA. Here we go again! The Bloomberg administration has been attempting- unsuccessfully because of the Alliance's efforts- to increase the DCA's regulatory reach for the past six years. If it wasn't able to do so through law, than it tried to sneak the regulatory expansion through a Charter Revision referendum (overwhelmingly defeated).

As the NY Sun editorialized on these efforts two short years ago (this was the Bloombergistas third attempt), in an editorial appropriately titled, "Undue Process:" "In many ways some might suggest, Introductory Bill 390 can be seen as emblematic of the way that the Bloomberg administration has sought to relate to the city's small businesses: to act as judge, jury and executioner." Now we are once again faced with the recrudescence of the same regulatory impulse, this time in Intro 210.

When is the mayor's minions going to get the message? Neighborhood retailers need, just as do the city's financial markets, less regulation and a reduced tax burden in order to be more productive. When it comes to small business, however, the mayor simply has a tin ear."

Apparently, when it comes to the expansion of regulatory authority-and by extension arbitrary mayoral authority-the small business message will never make it to the mayor's delicate ears. How many times does this Freddy Krueger-like initiative need to be beaten. Haven't the city's small businesses suffered enough from Bloomberg's regulatory demiurge? We suppose that the city's record levels of small business bankruptcies aren't sufficient-Bloomberg shooting for some kind of Guinness Book of Records mark.
And then there's the Conflict of Interest Board proposal that-unbeknown to most voters-has given the mayor a total pasedena. Gotham Gazette captures this masterpiece: "The commission did “not recommend change at this time” to loosen the mayor’s iron grip on the Conflicts of Interest Board, which seems to make members of his administration exempt from penalties, whatever their size."
But the COIB is badly in need of an overhaul that would put the mayor right in the cynosure where he or she belongs. This is the same mockery that couldn't find its ass with both hands-exemplified by its giving Deputy Dan Doctoroff a clean bill over his conflicted relationship with the developer Steve Ross of Related. Another reason to give this charter crap sandwich a resounding slam dunk into the circular file.
It is, however, the term limits sham that should prompt mass voter retching in November-and, as the Gotham Gazette points out, the commission further sullied itself-as did the NY Daily News editorialists-by failing to call the Bloomberg spade a spade over the debacle here: "For example, on term limits (the issue that for all intents and purposes led to creation of the commission) the report attributes the move to extend them in 2008 to the City Council. As for the mayor’s role: He established the Charter Commission and ” asked that the voters be given another opportunity to weigh in on the issue.” Somehow that isn’t quite how we remember it."
In some ways, this charter commission exhibits a degree of consistency. Having been called into being by someone whose honesty on the question of term limits was, well, limted, it proceeded to reflect the integrity of its creator. As a result, we should all put the kibosh on this wasted effort when our turn to weigh in arrives on November 2nd.