NYC Charter Revision Commission
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The 2010 Charter Revision Commission has concluded its work after successful approval by the voters of its two ballot proposals on November 2, 2010. Please be advised that the Commission is no longer accepting public comment. The Final Report and the two ballot proposals can be found below. Thank you.


On Election Day, Nov 2nd, Turn It Over
Watch the Charter Commission 'Turn It Over' Election Day PSA


The New York City Charter Revision Commission has released its Final Report, which contains two ballot questions approved by the Commission for consideration by voters on Election Day. 



WHAT HAPPENS ON ELECTION DAY 2010?

This Election Day, Tuesday, November 2, 2010, New Yorkers will get a chance to vote on making changes to the City Charter, the constitution of New York City. How can you make your voice heard?

STEP 1. TURN THE BALLOT OVER!
This year, voting will be done completely differently. Each voter will receive a paper ballot and a pen to mark it with. On the front of the ballot will be the elections for candidates for political offices. On the BACK you will find the questions about the City Charter.

There will be two questions for you to vote YES or NO on.

STEP 2. VOTE YES OR NO
The first question is about whether to restore a limit of TWO CONSECUTIVE TERMS for Mayor, City Council member, Public Advocate, Borough President and Comptroller. Please read more about this question below. You can vote YES to set a limit of two consecutive terms for these officials and limit any future change in term limit that is applicable to any incumbent official. You can vote NO to keep things as they are now, a three-term limit, consistent with current law.

The second question asks you to vote YES or NO on seven other reforms to the Charter concerning how government elections are conducted and how some parts of city government are organized. Please read more about these questions below. Vote YES to make these changes, and NO to keep things as they are.


TELL ME MORE!

QUESTION ONE: TERM LIMITS
The Law Now: Currently, the Mayor, the Comptroller, the Public Advocate, the Borough Presidents, and members of the City Council may serve for three consecutive four-year terms.

The Proposed Change: Under the new law, these officials would be limited to serving two consecutive four-year terms.

New Yorkers first voted to create term limits for elected officials in 1993, when voters approved a change to the city charter that established a two-term limit. In 2008, the City Council passed a law that extended the limit to three terms. This proposed change would return the law to a two-term limit.

If passed, this return to two terms will apply only to officials first elected this November or afterward. Any city official who is already in office on this Election Day will be permitted to serve three terms.

The new law will also prevent City Council members from passing a law to alter term limits for themselves and other sitting elected officials. The Council will only be able to make changes to term limits that would apply to future office-holders.

QUESTION TWO: ELECTIONS AND GOVERNMENT ADMINISTRATION
This question has seven subparts, each of which is explained below. If you vote YES on Question Two, all of these changes will be made. If you vote NO, the charter will remain unchanged.

  1. DISCLOSURE OF INDEPENDENT CAMPAIGN SPENDING The Law Now: Currently, people and organizations that spend money independently of any candidate to support or oppose political candidates or to influence votes in a referendum do not have to report those expenditures publicly.

    The Proposed Change: Under the new law, these expenditures will have to be reported.


    New York City has one of the most comprehensive laws in the nation governing how candidates for political office must disclose the money they receive and spend in connection with elections. The law does not currently include similar requirements for disclosure by independent people and organizations that spend money to support or oppose political candidates or referendums. A recent decision by the United States Supreme Court that reinforced the right of corporations and unions to make such independent expenditures will likely lead to an increase in this type of independent spending.

    If passed, this charter change regarding disclosure of independent expenditures would give the public information on what groups and individuals support and/or oppose certain candidates and political causes. These groups may include minor political parties, labor unions, political committees, and individuals with significant financial resources.

    Specifically, the law would require that any individual or group that spent $1,000 or more to support or oppose a candidate or referendum would have to: a) disclose the expenditure to the city's Campaign Finance Board and b) include in any literature the name of any individual or organization that paid for it. It would also require that any group spending $5,000 or more to support or oppose a candidate would have to disclose any organizations that made contributions to that group and any individual who contributed $1,000 or more during the 12-month period preceding the election. Any knowing violation of these rules would be punishable by a civil penalty of up to $10,000 per violation and as a misdemeanor.

  2. BALLOT ACCESS The Law Now: Currently, in order for candidates to run for City office, they must collect a large number of signatures on a petition.

    The Proposed Change: Under the new law, candidates would need to collect fewer signatures.


    New York State law requires a candidate running for election in a primary (or in a general election in the case of an independent candidate) to gather a large number of voter signatures in a short period of time in order to appear on the ballot. Because the legality of signatures is regularly challenged on technical grounds, candidates often need to collect many more signatures than state law requires. In some cases collecting these signatures can be a hardship for candidates with fewer resources. This law, if passed, will reduce that burden by approximately halving the number of signatures required by law. To the extent that requiring fewer signatures results in allowing a larger number of candidates to run, the change will increase voter choice.

    If passed, the charter change would reduce from 7,500 to 3,750 the number of signatures required to be collected by candidates for Mayor, Public Advocate, and Comptroller to appear on the primary ballot or the general election ballot. It would also reduce from 4,000 to 2,000 the number of signatures candidates for Borough President would need to collect to appear on either ballot. Lastly, it would reduce to 450 the number of signatures required to be collected by candidates for City Council to appear on either ballot, down from 900 to appear on the primary ballot and 2,700 to appear as an independent candidate in the general election.

  3. RECONSTITUTING THE VOTER ASSISTANCE COMMISSION WITHIN THE CAMPAIGN FINANCE BOARD The Law Now: Currently, there is a Voter Assistance Commission (VAC) comprised of 16 members charged with encouraging voter registration and participation.

    The Proposed Change: Under the new law, the Voter Assistance Commission would be renamed, resized, and relocated into the Campaign Finance Board.


    If passed, the new law would relocate VAC within the Campaign Finance Board (CFB), which has greater funding and other resources and an operating framework that would help VAC carry out its mission. The Campaign Finance Board already produces the Voters Guide and helps VAC produce the Video Voter Guide.

    The charter change would also rename VAC the Voter Assistance Advisory Committee (VAAC) and reduce it to nine members, who would include representatives of groups traditionally underrepresented among voters. VAAC and its coordinator, appointed by CFB, would advise and assist CFB in carrying out voter assistance functions, including activities specifically targeted at young people and voters with limited English proficiency.

    The law would also change the timelines of the Coordinator's annual report on voter registration and processes and the hearings, so the Coordinator's report and efforts for the next election can be considered at the hearings: the Coordinator's annual report on voter registration and voting processes would be moved up to April 30 from July 30, with hearings to directly follow. The proposal would also change the terms of CFB members to begin on December first rather than April first to give them a chance to familiarize themselves earlier with election issues.

  4. AMENDMENTS TO THE CONFLICTS OF INTEREST LAW The Law Now: Currently, the maximum penalty that can be assessed against a city public servant for each violation of the City's Conflicts of Interest law is $10,000.

    The Proposed Change: Under the new law, the maximum penalty per violation would be increased to $25,000; and in addition, the Conflicts of Interest Board would be authorized to require the penalized party to pay the City the value of any gain or benefit obtained as a result of the violation. The proposal would also require conflict of interest training for all public servants.


    The City has an extensive Conflicts of Interest law which prohibits city public servants from gaining financially from entities that do business with the City. For example, a public servant is not allowed to have a financial interest in a company that he or she knows is engaged in business dealings with his or her agency. A public servant is also prohibited from taking action in his or her official capacity that will benefit a firm in which he or she has a financial interest. Public servants may not attempt to use their positions to obtain financial gain, nor accept any valuable gift from a firm they know is engaged in business with the city. There are also restrictions on involvement in political activity, and a prohibition on using one's position with the city to negotiate future employment with a firm that does business with the city.

    The penalty for each violation of this law was set at $10,000 in 1988. If passed, the new law would update this amount which would provide a more appropriate punishment corresponding to the nature of the violation that was committed. The new law would also provide for disgorgement of gains: that is, the Conflicts of Interest Board could require any money gained by violating the Conflicts of Interest law to be paid to the City. The proposal would also provide for mandatory training in the Conflicts of Interest law of all public servants.

  5. CONSOLIDATION OF ADMINISTRATIVE TRIBUNALS The Law Now: Currently, hearings concerning violations of city laws and regulations are held at a variety of different city agencies.

    The Proposed Change: Under the new law, some agencies would transfer their hearings to a centralized hearing office.


    Many of the tribunals before which a person or entity charged with violating a city law or regulation can contest the violation are currently located within the city agency that issued the violation. For example, the Taxi and Limousine Commission conducts hearings for violations of their rules. Similarly, the Parking Violations Bureau, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the New York City Housing Authority, and a number of other agencies also hear challenges to violations issued by those agencies. Each of the agencies may conduct hearings in a different manner.

    If passed, the charter change would allow the Mayor to order the consolidation of many of the different tribunals into the City's Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings (OATH), allowing all proceedings to be conducted under one set of rules and procedures. The proposal requires that before there is any such consolidation, a committee appointed by the Mayor shall solicit public input, recommend which tribunals and/or types of adjudications should be consolidated, and conduct a public hearing. The law would also allow the Chief Administrative Law Judge of OATH to allow for suitable terms and qualifications for administrative law judges transferred from another agency. In addition, the new law would expand the adjudicatory power of the City's Department of Consumer Affairs to all violations of the law it enforces; currently it may only hear violations by entities that it has licensed.

  6. CITYWIDE REVIEW OF REPORTING REQUIREMENTS AND ADVISORY BODIES The Law Now: Currently, the New York City Charter and the Administrative Code contain hundreds of laws that require agencies to produce reports.

    The Proposed Change: Under the new law, a commission would be created to review these requirements and remove those that are no longer useful.


    Over the years, many requirements that city agencies produce periodic reports on their programs, and assemble advisory bodies to produce or oversee these reports, have been steadily added to the Charter and the Administrative Code and other local laws. These requirements now number in the hundreds. While many of these reports, including the Mayor's Management Report, are frequently used by city managers and the public, many others are no longer produced, and many are no longer relevant or necessary and may cause agencies to draw on time and resources in producing them.

    If the proposal is passed, a Report and Advisory Board Review Commission would be created, made up of representatives of the Mayor and the City Council, and would systematically go through the Charter and Administrative Code to review whether these reports and advisory bodies are still useful, including by soliciting input from the public, particularly the groups that would be affected by the retention or elimination of a report or advisory body. The Commission would have the power to remove the requirements from the law if they are no longer necessary, subject to review by the City Council and the Mayor. The Commission would also have the power to modify existing reporting requirements with the goal of making them effective in achieving their purpose, meeting additional data needs and taking account of technological advances. The Commission would not have the ability to recommend the waiver of reporting requirements or advisory bodies for three years following their establishment by local law.

  7. MAP FOR FACILITY SITING The Law Now: Currently, the City produces an annual map of its property that is used to decide where certain new city facilities should be placed.

    The Proposed Change: Under the new law, this map would be expanded to include the location of certain transportation or waste management facilities operated privately or by the state or federal government.


    Under current law, the Department of City Planning annually produces a map along with accompanying text that shows the location and use of all city-owned real property. The map and text also include the location of health and social services facilities operated by or for the state and federal government. By law, the map and text must be consulted and taken into account by city agencies when planning to open a new city facility, or close an existing one. The purpose of this law, which is called “Fair Share,†is to distribute fairly among communities the benefits and burdens of city facilities.

    If the new law is passed, the map and text will be expanded to also include the location of certain kinds of transportation and waste management facilities that are owned and operated privately or by the state or federal government. These facilities include MTA and Port Authority bus depots and subways, train yards, sewage treatment plants, and solid waste transfer and processing facilities. This will give agencies more information about what facilities already exist in a neighborhood when they are making determinations about where to place new facilities. It will also give the public easy access to this information in order to help evaluate whether a proposed facility would be beneficial to the neighborhood.
New York City Charter

Read the New York City Charter as amended through December 2009
Download (PDF)

Preliminary Staff Report and Recommendations to the Chair of the 2010 Charter Revision Commission
Press Release (PDF)
Preliminary Report (PDF)
Appendices (PDF)
Information

Matthew Goldstein
-Chair

Lorna Goodman
-Executive Director
More Resources

New York City Administrative Code
New York State Laws and Regulations
Public Service Announcement

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