Monday, July 12, 2010

Surrogate's Courthouse, NYC Charter Revision, and the People of New York City

I went downtown today after work to a place called "Surrogate's Courthouse" at 31 Chambers Street for a meeting of the NYC Charter Revision Commission that was open to the public but not hearing testimony -- that starts next Monday. Tonight, the Commission was to discuss the newly released preliminary report after weeks of public hearings.

I must say, Surrogate's Courthouse is a very wonderful and stately building directly across the street just north of City Hall, a Hallowell, Maine, granite, seven-story, steel-framed structure built at the turn of 20th Century by John R. Thomas. The staircases are beautiful, and there is a fireplace mantel in room 209 that should be the envy of every New Yorker... As a fan of the architecture of that period, particularly in NYC, it was a treat to be there. Well, sort of!

It's been really hot in NYC lately -- as is true for the entire East Coast and points north, south east and west.... In Surrogate's Courthouse the temperature tonight was about 110 degrees in the shade.  Many of us used relevant portions of the preliminary report issued by the Commission's staff on Friday to fan ourselves, while trying not to exert too many calories that would then just make us all sweat even more. I considered toward the end a possibly not so dissimilar meeting of our founding fathers in their wool suits and all that pomp and whatever trying to make heads or tails of the current predicament with the British overseers and how the h people were supposed to live under these conditions....

But to the present predicament:

First issue up was Term Limits. Discussion and input by almost every member of the commission appointed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg about term limits. Term limits became a big issue in NYC last year when Bloomberg decided to run for a third term and bypass a referendum voted in by the people of New York City limiting the mayoral office to 2 terms. Nobody but nobody liked it.

So anyways, the discussion ensues and after a spirited discussion waxing from historic to poetic to mundane about Instant Runoff Voting, Commissioner Carlo Scissura took issue with the preliminary report itself, which relegated nonpartisan elections to a "minor" issue under "other" in the report. Commission Executive Director Lorna B. Goodman said that no commissioners had expressed any interest in nonpartisan elections, but had expressed a lot of interest in IRV.

Earlier today, Independence Party attorney Harry Kresky was quoted in City Limits:
The Independence Party brought hundreds of supporters to the commission's hearings to push for nonpartisan elections, which failed in a 2003 charter vote. But Harry Kresky, a party lawyer, says the omission of nonpartisan voting from the list of recommendations is not discouraging. "This is a very engaged issue and people's minds are changing and it's an ongoing process. The report itself says that in the coming weeks the staff will be reviewing it. I think they're still looking at it," he says. "The Independence Party is in this for the long term. These kinds of changes don’t come instantly."
The Independence Party of New York has supported nonpartisan elections since its founding.

And, oh yes -- be sure to stop by Crain's New York for the poll "Should NYC adopt non-partisan voting?" - Polls | Crain’s New York Business  It's running 71% in favor!
Happy voting!

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