City Council Introduces Resolution Seeking Adoption of Voluntary Reforms by Council and Borough Presidents

New York, New York –  Council Members Ben Kallos, Jimmy Vacca and Mark Levineintroduced a resolution today adopting sweeping reforms to the recruitment and appointment process for community boards and calling on borough presidents to do the same. Resolution 164, co-sponsored by Council Members Danny Dromm, Antonio Reynoso, Carlos Menchaca, Brad Lander, Ydanis Rodriguez, Ritchie Torres and Debi Rose, includes recommendations for instituting member term limits, instituting independent screening panels for applicants and requiring conflict of interest forms of applicants.
 
Stemming from recommendations culled at a March 3rd hearing of the New York City Council Committee on Governmental Operations, which Kallos chairs, the resolution seeks to create inclusive, apolitical boards that truly represent communities.
 
"Term limits, conflicts of interest disclosure, youth participation and ending automatic reappointment will not only reduce absenteeism but reinvigorate our community boards with members using their precious time to improve their neighborhood," said Council Member Kallos. "I have already been instituting reforms to the appointment process by rigorously evaluating reappointees, giving consideration to their attendance and participation." 
 
“As a former Community Board District Manager, I know how important it is to make sure citizens are engaged through the Boards and members realize how important what they do is. This resolution codifies best practices and will serve our city well, as the 59 Community Boards truly represent little City Halls in our local communities," said Council Member Jimmy Vacca.

 “The introduction of Resolution 164 calls for vital improvements to the systems currently in place by our Community Boards. As a community organizer, I know that sharing best practices is the lifeline of progress, and so many of the recommendations based on this shared information would promote more transparency, diverse representation, and more accountability," said Council Member Reynoso. 

"I commend Councilmember Ben Kallos, Chair of the Committee on Governmental Operations of The City of New York, for the thorough work his committee has done in preparing its report, 'Improving Community Boards in New York City.' It is the first report of its kind to delve into the important issue of how to make our community boards function more efficiently. The report contains best practice recommendations for borough presidents with respect to the recruitment and appointment of community board members, and I am a proud co-sponsor of this resolution.

"The recommendations contained in the report are common-sense, such as creating an independent screening panel, updating technology to create interactive forums, and creating a formal, transparent process for filling community board positions. 

"Participation on a community board is for many their first foray into our political process. Community boards make recommendations with respect to quality of life matters that impact on our day-to-day life, such as noise pollution, restaurants and bars with unruly patrons, placement of traffic lights, and zoning and development.

Having appropriate community representation on community boards that is truly reflective of the diversity of the local community is critical to having a broad spectrum of interests and concerns a part of the deliberations of a community board.  It is my hope that this resolution will be adopted, and the processes it recommends adopted," said Council Member Rose.

Recommendations for adoption citywide include: 

  • Term limits of five consecutive two-year terms for full board members
  • Online application and technology infrastructure
  • Conflict of interest disclosure by all applicants
  • Requiring reappointment applications with evaluation of attendance, service & participation
  • Ban on political appointments specifically staffers of elected officials and executive board members of a political party
  •  Filling vacancies within 30 days
  • Independent screening panels modeled after Comptroller Scott Stringers’
  • Improved outreach and recruitment focusing on diversity, geography and experts
  • Youth representation by 16- and 17-year olds as public members of youth committees and as full board members
  • Mandatory reporting by borough presidents to the council on appointments

 
The March 3 hearing included testimony from New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and Staten Island Borough President James Oddo, as well as community board chairs and district managers from all five boroughs, good government groups and youth advocacy organizations. Kallos’ office then released a report entitled "Improving Community Boards in New York City: Best Practices in Recruitment and Appointment to New York City’s 59 Community Boards," containing dozens of recommendations for reform to New York City's community boards.
 
Between April 1st and May 30th of this year, four new borough presidents and twenty one new city council members, along with their previously elected colleagues, will be making 1,475 appointments to 59 community boards spanning all five boroughs.
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