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Term Limits for Community Board Members on the Ballot This November

Community Board 2 meeting on Sept. 6 (Photo: Nathaly Pesantez)

Sept. 13, 2018 By Nathaly Pesantez

Significant changes could soon be coming to community boards.

Term limits for board members, along with a provision to make boards more representative of their communities, will appear as items on the general election ballot this November, the city announced last week.

The two items, among several proposals, come after hearings and forums organized by the New York City Charter Review over the past several weeks. The Commission was created by Mayor Bill de Blasio earlier this year, with the goal of going over the entire city charter as part of the administration’s DemocracyNYC plan.

The Commission proposes limiting community board members to four consecutive two-year terms after April 2019. Currently, board members serve for two-year terms and are re-appointed with no limit.

Terms served prior to the new policy would not count toward the term limit count.

Members, in addition, could still re-apply to be on a board after one full term out of office.

As for encouraging diversity, transparency, and uniformity to the appointment process, the Commission is also proposing that borough presidents be tasked with seeking out persons of diverse backgrounds, and make applications available on their websites.

The proposal also calls for an annual report to be made disclosing information about membership and the board recruitment and selection process.

The Commission, additionally, proposes for boards to receive more resources, including access to urban planning professionals and language access resources.

The community board proposals are one of three ballot item categories, with others including proposals in campaign finance and civic engagement.

Much of the response to the Commission’s proposals has centered on term limits for community board members.

Many opposed to the initiatives fear that term limits could weaken community boards by pushing out long-time members who may have developed institutional knowledge on several areas related to community development.

Those fears were expressed by four borough presidents, including Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, who said in an August letter to the commission that land use items would be most affected by the term limit initiative.

“To impose term limits on these members serves to further empower real estate developers and the lobbyists and technical advisors who appear on their behalf before the community boards,” the letter reads, according to reports.

Those in favor of the proposal, however, say term limits allow new voices to come in and make for better representation.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who did not sign the letter to the Commission, said he’s a “strong believer” in term limits, as they can help bring in people with fresh ideas.

“Many, particularly in Brooklyn, have been on the board for almost 25, 30 years, and it’s just a long period of time,” Adams said two weeks ago on The Brian Lehrer Show. “With this new engagement, civic activism that is really brewing across the entire city, if not the country—this is a great opportunity.”

Efforts to reform community boards have come up several times in the past, with the same arguments for and against put forward. Council Member Daniel Dromm of Jackson Heights, for example, introduced a bill back in 2014 to institute a 12-year limit to board members before they could no longer serve.

Dromm said at the time that while he has great respect for those that have served for decades, community boards should change to ensure new ideas, cultures, and backgrounds are represented.

The bill was backed by Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, who said that the changes to boards would be healthy and representative of good government and democracy.

Some Community Board 2 members also weighed in on the matter, with Lisa Deller, head of the land use committee, believing that term limits would diminish the power of the community board, as members would have to leave once they develop a level of expertise.

In a recent op-ed, Jeremy Rosenberg, another Community Board 2 member, said term limits would strengthen local democracy, and that board members who finish their run can continue to serve their communities in other capacities like civic associations, tenant groups, and even in the public comment section of meetings.

The proposals for term limits, and other measures, will appear on the ballot for the Nov. 6 general election.

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24 Comments

Mythoughts

This is a great idea as community boards have become dominated by cliques that can become disconnected from large swaths of the community. Can we also change the rules so that community boards are elected rather than appointed? And so that they have votes that are binding not suggestions?




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Gardens Watcher

Not only do you have to be invited to be on the Board by local elected officials, but you have to submit to a full financial review. And it’s also an unpaid position, so be prepared to donate lots of your time in community service.

Good luck to anyone who is willing to do the job and be prepared to take the heat from your neighbors.




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Mike Mc

Sounds good but ain’t. Don’t be fooled. It is a way for Van Bramer and City Council Members to get rid of people who stand up to them. First fix rules to elect members. Now they all appointed by Van Bramer and Katz. Guess who they will get rid of. Next, make some decisions binding. Now Van Bramer can ignore Community Board.




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Pro Reform

Good for Eric Adams, Jimmy Van Bramer, and the young man on the Community Board Jeremy Rosenberg for being willing to say that power should have limits, even for the Board. No one should have a hegemony on veto power on local projects. I don’t envy these gentleman. They’ll catch h*ll from the well connected political class that always gets on the Board. Good luck.




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Powertothepeople

No to term limits. The council person can refrain from renewing a member, as can the borough president. If they want new representation, do it that way or enlarge the number of members. Only experienced people can see how and where the system is being manipulated by the more powerful, for instance the Mayor. We’ve had atrocious instances where the mayors use some form of executive power to override communities. Bloomberg/Quinn gave us the loophole JVB is using right now to do his damage to the community and DiBlasio just completely ignored the advice of almost all the city’s community boards to put through his horrifficly weak solution to housing. We need to strengthen, not weaken the community boards. And members of the community need to have a say in who is put on and taken off, too.




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The boards are not the people

Could not disagree more with this. When board votes are dismissed it is a clear sign of increasingly alarming irrelevance of community boards, who are largely unrepresentative of their communities. Because there are essentially no boards with low tenure, you can pretty much divide the boards into those with power and those without it.

The haves in this situation are essentially the established Manhattan boards, who in some cases have both deeply experienced and successful members who have had indelible impacts on their respective communities (for better or worse). The best of these boards have been able to stifle development or direct it with laser like precision to fit an agenda that is at odds with a growing city and what would otherwise be an enormous demand for increased housing in affluent areas.

The have-nots are either the boards in “gentrifying neighborhoods” who have seen the ruthlessly detrimental rezonings pushed through (because the savvy boards blocked them) or the boards in the outer reaches of the city that in some cases haven’t seen much change and have little ability to effectuate much of anything anyhow. The tenure in these boards only serves to preserve ineffectiveness.

The above post wants CB2 to be more like the powerful and savvy boards, but the result would keep the board in the below average position in which it currently sits. What we see without term limits are either incredibly savvy but unaccountable people, or incredibly amateur and ineffective people. Both types of boards are at odds with the direction the city is going in, and as a result the community board system is universally weak and in dire need of change.

Introducing term limits is a step towards fixing this disconnect between community boards and the city in that the boards would be more representative. Fixing the knowledge gap would be for another referendum…




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Absolutelynot

The city needs to pick the direction it is going in with much more input from effective community boards. Weakening community boards in places that need stronger boards doesn’t make sense just because Manhattan has boards that are too powerful.




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CB2 is weak

Take your pick. Freeze CB2 in time and continue seeing politicking and a race towards irrelevance or reform it, make it more representative of the community and more powerful.

Remember our relatively weak board can only gain from this. It’s the imperious boards that will be wrested from the control of nimbys.

Term limits are our win win.




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Curious Idiot

it’s about time to end term limits. now if we can only push it out at a local/state and federal level so that the likes of Schumer, McConnell Pelosi et el don’t have a career in Public office. And what’s even better now that the board will be a representative of the community we will have plenty of hipsters, yuppies, millennials & granola heads sitting on the board & making policy. Plenty for the “I’ve lived here forever & don’t change anything” crowd to cry and moan about.




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vote aquí. 在这里投票 صوت هنا

They wish the community boards to represent the community and are requesting more language access resources. What a racist thought. They are implying that there are a lot of people in our communities that are either to stupid to learn the language or to lazy to learn the language.




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Tommy O

No to term limits. The American voter should decide how many times they want to vote a candidate into office, just like our founding fathers intended. Americans need to stop giving their power up to rich and manipulative.




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VelvetKnight

Community board members aren’t on the ballot, so voting doesn’t apply. And while I’m ambivalent about term limits in other places (for reasons I don’t feel like getting into), in this case it’s a great idea.

If the idea is for them to represent the community, their membership needs to be reflective of the community. People squatting for 20-30 years makes that impossible.




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vote aquí. 在这里投票 صوت هنا

Tommy Boy…Blah Blah. Blame everything on the rich. I better not win lotto or else you will be blaming me also. Go back to Venezuela you stupid fool.




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Tommy O

Money is power plain and simple, it’s a capitalistic society. It’s always the undereducated Trumpers like yourself who shoot their mouths off and try to intimidate others with cyber bullying tactics. Congratulations idiot today the fifth felon was added to your treasonous Donald Trumps inner circle. Good work in getting a gluttonous treasonous Russian agent elected to the highest office in the land and most powerful office in the world. But you’re the smart one.,




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vote aquí. 在这里投票 صوت هنا

Tommmy O get off the Trump band wagon. Blaming everything on Trump including not getting enough milk in your milkshake. It is sad that the Russians ate your homework. And to let you know I neither like either party including Trump.
You need to grow a brain.




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Woodsider

Blame?? where is there any blame in Tomnys post? You need to look up the definition of blame and take a remedial reading class. You and your alternative facts.




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vote aquí. 在这里投票 صوت هنا

Tommy O, alias Woodsider. You have no spine, disguising yourself as Woodsider. It’s you, you were the one that would tattletale and hide behind the teacher. Now your hiding as someone else by the name of Woodsider




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Seenitbefore

Nope. Did you not consider the possibility of adding more members? I found JVB’s nomination of young newcomers rather self-serving. People need to learn the ropes by watching the seasoned members of the community work. Not all “new” ideas are good and I’ve seen green board members slash and burn in the interest of progress only to be on their merry way in a few years. Meanwhile people have to put things back together in their wake. I’m for evolution, not revolution. New people almost always just want to make their mark on a clean slate, they resent the fact that other people were their before them.




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