With so many headlines and so much anxiety heading into election week, it may be easy to forget that as a New Yorker, you have the chance to Flip Your Ballot! In addition to voting candidates into office, there is also the opportunity to amend New York City’s constitution. There will be three proposals from the Mayor’s charter revision commission that will provide an opportunity to alter how the City governs.
Two of the ballot proposals – establishing a civic engagement commission and reforming community boards – are derived from ideas within our Inclusive City report. The report was released earlier this year after a collaborative process with over 40 organizations, including community groups and elected officials. It provides strategies for reforming governance and processes that impact land-use decisions around the City.
There is a lot of commentary as we approach election day around these proposals, and it’s important to understand what they would accomplish and why RPA supports them.
Question #2 is the proposal to establish a Civic Engagement Commission. The purpose of the commission would be to “enhance civic participation, promote civic trust, and strengthen democracy” in the City. While the powers and duties proposed right now do not go as far as was recommended by the Inclusive City coalition, it does set a foundation for more robust community engagement.
Why does RPA support Question #2?
The commission would implement Participatory Budgeting (PB) citywide beginning July 1, 2020. PB has been implemented by 31 districts in NYC, and this will help expand the process to the rest of the City. This will also enable all New Yorkers to have a say on how part of the public budget gets spent within their community. The commission would also be tasked with making sure language and access needs are met at polling stations, that awareness and access to City services is expanded, and provide assistance to support community groups in their civic engagement work. We also think that once the Commission is established, its power could be expanded as needed to and help the city adopt new options for community participation in government policy.
Question #3 is the proposal to reform Community Boards. The reforms up for vote would impose term limits for community board members, require Borough Presidents to seek out persons of diverse backgrounds in making appointments to community boards, and require the proposed Civic Engagement Commission to provide support related to land use and other matters to community boards.
Why does RPA support Question #3?
As the City changes, so have the dynamics and composition of neighborhoods. Community boards have not been required to ensure they are representative of their own communities. This lack of representation spills over into the decision making process, preventing certain groups from having a voice at the table when community boards weigh in on projects and changes that have lasting impacts. This ballot proposal will require a standardization of the appointment process and reporting to prove community boards are representative of the district’s diversity. Additionally, the proposal would ensure that community boards receive technical support and training to prepare them to be more knowledgeable and ready to act on land-use decisions.
New Yorkers have an opportunity this year to further inclusivity in decision making. We encourage you to get informed and spread the word.
On November 6th, remember to Flip Your Ballot!
To read the full abstracts for each of the ballot proposals you can click here. You can also visit the NYC’s Campaign Finance Board Voter Guide website and publicize the information to your friends and colleagues to help them cast informed votes. If you’d like to review information and meeting minutes from the Mayor’s charter revision process, you can visit that commission’s website.