New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Transcript of Call to Mayor's Charter Revision Commission on Democracy Tele-Townhall

Thank you Commissioners for hosting this telephone town hall and tomorrow’s Twitter town hall. This Charter revision commission is truly doing everything in its power to reach the residents of this great city.

On July 23, I testified again at the Manhattan hearing.

All reforms start with getting big money out of politics with a full public match of every dollar which would finally allow candidates to run for office without soliciting big money. Through this change we can ensure that elected officials make better appointments to the community boards without having to satisfy special interests.

Term Limits are a good thing and have reinvigorated the City Council, while protecting our nation from our current President serving more than 8 years. This is necessary to ensure that these bodies reflect their communities and create a culture of getting things done and foster mentoring and the passing on of institutional memory. Community Boards should have term limits to, whether following recommendations from Citizens Union or my proposal for two four year terms staggered with Council Members and Borough Presidents.

Following my testimony, many Community Board members reached out in opposition to term limits. Funny enough, when I appoint new Community Board members I ask who I should remove, and almost to a person they all suggest starting with replacing longest serving members first. Now that they’ve been appointed, their positions have suddenly changed. I would just say term limits work for President and work for City elected officials and where we don’t have term limits we’ve seen dysfunction in places like Washington and Albany where it seems like a day doesn’t go by without another indictment.

Community Boards with Term Limits will need dedicated urban planner. This would empower Community Boards in rezoning, variances in front of the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) applications to review. Absent even those, planners can devote resources to studying how a community district can grow while planning for future need, how urban planning can positively affect public safety issues and community violence, and how to preserve business ownership and encourage new business and development in blighted areas.

With so many contentious rezoning before the City Council like Inwood yesterday, Community Boards along with their Borough Board and their Borough President must be able to initiate grassroots community rezonings Uniform Land Use Review Procedures (ULURP) completely funded by the City or with a triple no have a veto.

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