Two years ago, Kallos released a policy report about the bodies and identified some areas for reform.
Since then, according to the Council member, some positive changes have been made. “The borough presidents have adopted improved applications,” Kallos told Gotham Gazette, noting the switch to applying online. “We’ve seen applications go up on the community boards that I oversee and other members are overseeing.”
Aside from online applications, a possible reason for the enrollment increase is a state law passed in 2014 allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to serve on community boards. An increase in youth representation on the boards was recommended by Kallos in his report, and he co-sponsored a City Council resolution in support of the state legislation.
“We’ve appointed numerous 16-year-olds throughout the city,” Kallos said. “They’re bringing youth and energy to the boards, and they are our best and brightest.”
In April of last year, Kallos introduced a bill that would have required borough presidents to provide professional urban planning staff to community boards, a policy that advocacy groups have also endorsed.
“Since they are doing the work of looking at their neighborhoods to see what should be improved locally and what recommendations they want to make about land-use decisions, streetscapes, that kind of thing, we think that they should actually have professional advice,” said Werber of Citizens Union.
Like the term limits bill, this bill was laid over after a public hearing.
Torres’ community board reform bill is currently active on the Council floor and awaiting an initial hearing. Simply put, the bill would require community boards to publish information on board vacancies, attendance records, as well as demographic data in an effort to increase board diversity.
Kallos, a co-sponsor of the bill, has already seen its policies practiced by the community boards under his oversight. “It’s already being implemented by Manhattan borough president Gale Brewer and it’s really had a significant impact,” the governmental operations committee chair said.
Community board reform bills must go through Kallos’ committee, but in order to move they also must have the support of many Council members who may be worried about upsetting their local board members.
“I have great hopes for Council Member Torres’ legislation,” Kallos said. “I think transparency is good anywhere we can bring it.”