New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Statement on 2019 Charter Revision Questions

“The 2019 Charter Revision Commission has heard the voice of residents from all five boroughs over the last year proposing questions to reform elections with ranked choice voting, improve police community relations by empowering the Civilian Complaint Review Board, strengthen ethics protections by extending the revolving door for elected officials and senior officials from one to two years, create a citywide office dedicated to contracting with women and people of color, protect the independence of the Public Advocate and Borough Presidents with minimum budgets, and give communities early involvement in neighborhood planning.

 

Ballot Question #3 – Ethics and Government

Sub-Question: Prohibit City elected officials and senior appointed officials from appearing before the agency (or, in certain cases, the branch of government) they served in for two years after they leave City service, instead of the current one year. This change would be applicable to persons who leave elected office or City employment after January 1, 2022; 

“We should have a citizen legislature with elected officials returning to their communities and previous occupations after they serve with a lifetime ban on lobbying, but doubling the current ban from a one-year to two-years is a step in the right direction.

“With a super-majority of the City Council termed out of office in 2021, and at least a majority who will have six months as lame ducks to find a new job, it is more important than ever to extend ethics protections on the revolving door between government and lobbying from one to two years.

 

Ballot Question #4 - City Budget

Sub-Question: Set minimum budgets for the Public Advocate and Borough Presidents. The budget for each office would be at least as high as its Fiscal Year 2020 budget adjusted annually by the lesser of the inflation rate or the percentage change in the City’s total expense budget (excluding certain components), unless the Mayor determines that a lower budget is fiscally necessary;

“The more independent a Public Advocate the more their office has been the target of budget cuts by a vengeful Mayor. The proposed minimum budget will provide protections freeing the Public Advocate to be an even stronger check on the Mayor.

“A system of checks and balances only works when the executive branch and legislative branch can’t cut funds to other elected officials for opposing them. Minimum budgets will provide necessary protections for the Borough Presidents and Public Advocate to be more independent in serving the voters.

“Communities are often at odds with neighborhood upzonings pushed by the Mayor and all too often approved by the local Council Member. A minimum budget will provide the Borough Presidents the resources they need to support the community and stand against their fellow elected officials.

 

Ballot Question #5 - Land Use

Sub-Question: For projects subject to the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), require the Department of City Planning (DCP) to transmit a detailed project summary to the affected Borough President, Borough Board and Community Board at least 30 days before the application is certified for public review, and to post that summary on its website;

“Upzonings usually feel like a done deal, leaving the community without a chance to make necessary improvements and forcing them to vote it down, often only to be overruled by their local Council Member. Communities would have an opportunity to comment on neighborhood planning at the beginning of the process when their voices can be heard and necessary improvements can be made.

“Public comments at the start of the land use process will empower communities to have a real say in what is ultimately approved by city planning, which will not only speed things up in the long run but provide better outcomes for everyone.

 

Council Member Ben Kallos testified before the 2019 Charter Revision Commission proposing 72 recommendations for amendments to the Charter on September 27, 2018. The City Council included 16 of those recommendations in our Report to the 2019 New York City Charter Revision Commission in January of 2019. The 2019 Charter Revision Commission identified 9 of recommendations from Council Member Kallos in whole or in part for further discussion in its Preliminary Staff Report. On May 9, 2019, Council Member Kallos submitted a final fifteen recommendations on ethics, city budget, land use, elections and redistricting, and empowering the offices of the Public Advocate and Borough President. Proposals and recommendations from Council Member Kallos are included in whole or in part in all five of the final ballot questions.

 

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