A public hearing last month at LaGuardia Community College did little to reassure skeptics that the revision of the City Charter was being done thoughtfully. At the meeting held by the City Charter Revision Committee, members of the public were given three minutes to make statements or raise questions. This falls short of intelligent debate.
Charter revision is too important to be rushed. The charter is basically the city constitution. The revision will define the status of city agencies, the role and continued existence of community boards, the borough presidents and how funding will be distributed among the boroughs.
Committee Chairman Matthew Goldstein said the “commission is deeply committed to an open process of public engagement. We invite all New Yorkers to participate in this important review process.”
The committee plans one hearing in each borough. Unless the schedule is revised, the April hearing was it for Queens. That meeting did nothing more than show how complex the issues surrounding charter revision are.
TimesLedger Newspapers would oppose any effort to further diminish the power of the borough presidents. They speak for the boroughs in a way that no one else can. The mayor speaks for the city and tends to be myopic when it comes to Manhattan. City Council members by design represent the needs of their districts.
Likewise, although the community boards can at times be narrow-minded and frustrating, TimesLedger opposes any change in the charter that would diminish the role of the boards.
We agree with Borough President Helen Marshal, who used her speaking time to urge the committee not to “rush” the revision process. Three minutes at the microphone does not encourage thoughtful discussion. This reminds us of similar hearings held by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board, whose members had made up their minds on fare hikes and service cuts before the public forums.
It seems unlikely there can be any meaningful discussion of the issues surrounding charter revision before the November election. It would be better to take charter revision off the ballot than to ask voters to vote on proposals that have not been appropriately aired out.
©2010 Community News Group
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