Monday, November 01, 2010

Charter Revision: Yes and No

We have already commented on the two charter revision questions that are on the ballot tomorrow, but we thought it was a good time to recapitulate-and use the City Limits piece by Alvin Berke as a jumping off point. Berke rails against the second prop on the ballot, and, in our view, he's absolutely correct:

"Like Mike Bloomberg's bicycle lanes? Vote "No" on ballot Question 2. Dislike his bike lanes? Vote "No" on ballot Question 2. Huh? If you're wondering what bicycle lanes have to do with ballot Question 2—a collection of unrelated charter proposals—and why you should bother to vote "No" on Q2, a little history will explain. The bike lane program—whatever you think of it—was made possible because of advocacy by organized transportation advocates and because a major charter revision in 1989 created a strong-mayor, weak-council form of government. Today, even if the City Council or borough presidents disagree with the mayor, they usually can't do anything about it. Only Bloomberg or a successor could reverse the bike lane expansion."

Or, in other words, Prop 2 is about the increase in government power for a mayoralty that has too much of it already: "The NYC mayor's leverage over other city officials is broad: He can stop a commissioner from returning an official's phone call (something Rudy Giuliani did); he can choose which elected officials to invite to photo ops; and he can reward supporters on the Council by giving them credit when he sends mayoral discretionary funds to their districts. Not surprisingly, only once during the Bloomberg administration did the City Council rally to reject a major mayoral development: the Kingsbridge Armory Mall in 2009. Voter approval of ballot Question 2 would sharpen the mayor's edge a little more."

Berk, however, misses the import of this provision-particularly as to how it relates to the adjudication process: "Question 2 would authorize the mayor to consolidate administrative tribunals, which currently fall under his various agencies. This "one size fits all" approach to selecting and training administrative law judges could make it easier for a mayor to interfere in the ALJ hiring process.

Of course, as we pointed out before, the real peeve with this rancid porridge is that it gives the DCA judge and jury power over the already over-regulated city stores:

"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."

But, as Berke points out, even if you like one or more of the lumped in provisions in this Prop, you can't pick and choose-it's all or nothing-and in the end, it's too much extra power to a mayor:

"Finally, voters should object to Question 2 simply because it robs us of choice. Goldstein argues that the new paper ballots just are too small to accommodate the proposals as separate questions. The Board of Elections has denied this. And common sense says a solution could have been found. Question 2 contains a few provisions—the VAC-CFB merger, the conflicts of interest enhancements, the site map requirement—that could marginally "reform" the way government works. But its core proposals are intended to help those who want mayors to be even more controlling than Mike Bloomberg, and even more resistant to compromise. This is not what New York City needs."

As for term limits, we've said all we need to say. We suggest a Yes vote, but if you can-with reference to the late, great Roger Maris-find a spot to place an asterisk, by all means do it.