Millman Provides Testimony to NYC Charter Revision Commission

April 23, 2010
Brooklyn, NY—Assemblywoman Joan L. Millman submitted the New York City Charter Review Commission with the following testimony at the public hearing held in Brooklyn.

April 20, 2010

Testimony Presented to:
NYC Charter Revision Commission

Submitted By:
Joan L. Millman
Member of Assembly, 52nd Assembly District

Re: Proposed Charter Revisions

Thank you for this opportunity to testify before the Charter Revision Commission. I want to thank the members of the Commission for their service and time.

Time. That’s the main point I want to make. Take your time. Hold more hearings. Listen to what we have to say. The City’s Charter is too important to rush and too much is at stake. As our constitution, the City Charter is an imperfect document that must grow and evolve as our city grows and evolves. While it functions fairly well, it is a work in progress. However, this does not mean we should make hasty changes simply to comply with an artificial deadline of November 2nd. This will only reaffirm the public’s suspicions that this Commission is unable to undertake a fair, open and comprehensive study of the city’s governance. I strongly advise the Commission to wait until the election in 2012.

There are many issues that should be addressed by this Commission- term limits, the roles of the Borough Presidents and the Public Advocate, and the land use system, to name just three. These are serious issues that necessitate a thoughtful and deliberate process. This may require the Commission’s term be extended but I am sure that you appreciate the monumental task placed before you and why taking the time to do this right is so important.

There are some who have pressed you to abolish the Borough Presidents and the Public Advocate because they hold no real power. I disagree. Our federal and state governments are built on a series of checks and balances yet in the city too much power is placed in the hands of the executive branch. For that reason alone their existence is necessary. In addition, the Public Advocate works to ensure government is acting in the interests of all New Yorkers.

Likewise, the Borough Presidents serve a vital role as advocates for their entire borough and are an important voice in land use decisions. Their knowledge of their borough places them in a unique position to advance a vision for the borough. The response to the criticism of their supposed inefficiency should not be to abolish the office. Rather, I hope the Commission will identify what steps need to be taken to strengthen and formalize the role of the Borough Presidents and Public Advocate.

The Commission must also proceed with caution regarding the much needed overhaul of the city’s land use system. The community boards and the Borough President need more input and the secretive and capricious Board of Standards and Appeals needs to be reined in. This is the opportunity to perfect the land use process and we must not squander it.

Lastly, I want to discuss term limits. When the voters of New York City were allowed to vote on term limits, both times they voted in support of it. It is the voters’ responsibility to reject an officeholder who is not doing their job. The most recent City Council elections showed that our nationally-recognized campaign finance system works. I would suggest the Commission consider extending it to three terms or even two 5 year terms.

Again, thank you for your time and for your dedication to this great city of ours.