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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:
Eric Friedman
(212) 382-6754
Kathryn Inman
212-382-6656

City Bar Provides Recommendations for New York City Charter Revision Commission

New York, NY, July 1, 2010 – The New York City Bar Association has released a report offering recommendations on key issues currently under consideration by the 2010 New York City Charter Revision Commission.

While expressing appreciation for the thoughtfulness and dedication with which the Commission has approached the enormous task at hand, the report expresses concern that the Commission’s timetable is too rushed. The City Bar therefore urges the Commission to extend its schedule in order to fully address all potential changes to the City Charter, and to focus on placing a comprehensive set of charter revisions on the ballot in 2012.

In the interest of addressing matters at the forefront of the Commission’s present agenda, the report provides specific recommendations regarding governmental structure and the conduct of elections:

  • Term limits: Since the issue has been voted on twice in citywide referendums, whatever proposal that is made should respect the prior votes on the topic and once the voters have spoken again, that determination should be legislatively protected from future legislative or mayoral change without a referendum.
  • Should term limits be retained, the City Council’s terms should be extended to at least one term longer than the mayor’s.
  • Budgetary independence for Borough Presidents: under the current version of the Charter, Borough Presidents must negotiate their office budgets with the Mayor and City Council each year, thus reducing the independence of the office. Borough President budgets should be set through a predetermined formula.
  • To the extent the Public Advocate’s office is strengthened, its budget also should be set through a predetermined formula.

The City Bar also recommended a number of reforms to the procedure for conducting elections for New York City offices which the City is empowered to implement:

  • Revising the political calendar so that primary elections for city officials are held in the spring rather than in September. This would increase voter turnout and widen the window for overseas military personnel to vote, in compliance with a new federal law.
  • Making it easier to run for office by:

- Providing automatic ballot access for anyone who qualifies to receive public matching dollars under the City’s Campaign Finance Program;

- Establishing a procedure under which candidates can file a Notice of Intent to Run rather than a petition, where no other candidate is seeking the position;

  • Reforming the process by which candidates circulate and file petitions to run for City office by:

- Permitting voters to sign more than one candidate’s petition;

- Easing the procedure for correcting errors on a petition;

- Eliminating the requirement that only members of a political party can circulate that party’s petitions;

- Reducing the number of signatures required to run for office.

  • Making it easier to vote by:

- Allowing voting one or two weeks prior to Election Day;

- Providing for an “instant runoff” method of voting (allowing a voter to indicate a first and second choice in a primary election) so that separate run-off elections would not be necessary;

- Allowing absentee voting without needing a specific excuse for casting an absentee ballot;

- Allowing for “same day” registration for general elections.

The full report is available at http://bit.ly/90NFG5


About the Association
The New York City Bar Association (www.nycbar.org) was founded in 1870, and since then has been dedicated to maintaining the high ethical standards of the profession, promoting reform of the law, and providing service to the profession and the public. The Association continues to work for political, legal and social reform, while implementing innovative means to help the disadvantaged. Protecting the public’s welfare remains one of the Association’s highest priorities.