To The Editor:
I oppose the November 6th ballot proposition to provide term limits for Community Board members. Why? Because term limits already exist. All Community Board members must be reappointed every two years by their respective borough president after recommendation from their local council member. This two-step process is fair and equitable for anyone who applies, and Community Board reappointments are based on past service and attendance. Otherwise, members are not reappointed.
Community Board members are dedicated, passionate, hardworking volunteers who do not see their roles as honorariums. Many Community Boards today do not have the full 50-member body allowed by charter. Even with these current vacancies and opportunities for new members, many do not apply, as this dedicated volunteer role is not for everyone. Term limits will further dampen encouragement for new membership.
Term limits would cause a huge loss of institutional knowledge. Many Community Board members are valued experts as attorneys, architects, engineers, police and fire officials, and these esteemed individuals are extremely difficult to replace. Civic organizations rely on their local Community Boards for this expertise and institutional knowledge to protect the best interests of their neighborhoods.
It takes many years for Community Board volunteers to learn and correctly apply government procedures, applicable law and public policy. As the vice chairman of Community Board #7 Queens, I see many new Community Board members express themselves incorrectly or abstain from voting because they admittedly do not understand the subject matter. Developers would love to appear before inexperienced Community Boards who would lack the expertise and articulation to oppose them, thus creating a “developer’s dream.”
Most people do not realize that term limits do not exist for our U.S. senators or Congress members, NYS governor, NYS comptroller, NYS attorney general, NYS senators, NYS assembly members or district attorneys.
Yet the mayor wants term limits for the passionate volunteers of our local communities?
This is why many elected officials including four borough presidents, many NYC Council members, NYS senators and assembly members oppose the Community Board member term-limits proposal. They understand and value the input of their local Community Board members, who willingly volunteer their time for the betterment of their communities.
Please vote “no” for Charter Proposal #2 and #3 on the back of the November 6th ballot.
— Chuck Apelian, 1st Vice Chair of Community Board 7 in Queens
On Election Day, voters will be asked to consider three proposals put forth by the NYC Charter Revision Commission. These proposals were developed following public hearings that were held across the city regarding changes to be made to the city charter.
I have opinions on Proposals #2 and #3. These opinions are my own, and not necessarily the opinions of any of the civic or community organizations that I belong to. For full disclosure, I have been a member of Queens Community Board 11 for 13 years.
Proposal #2 deals with the establishment of a Civic Engagement Commission, which will promote participation by city residents in certain aspects of decision-making in terms of making recommendations for projects in communities. Participatory budgeting will come under the purview of this commission. Also, the mayor will be able “to assign relevant powers and duties of certain other City agencies to the Commission,” according to an online abstract. It seems to me that this makes the city agencies involved less effective and less relevant, with more power being given to the commission.
The mayor will be appointing eight of the 15 members of the commission, a majority of the seats. The City Council speaker will get to fill two of the seats, and each of the five borough presidents will appoint one member to the commission. One of the mayor’s appointees will be the commission chairperson and this chairperson will employ and direct the commission staff. Doesn’t this give the mayor extraordinary control? I believe we should be decentralizing power in the city, not giving the mayor, whoever he or she may be, more power. I think that this proposal needs more review and reassessment before it is put before the voters.
Proposal #3 seems to be getting the most public attention. It would term limit community board members. The reason to do this, given by the proponents, is the need to expand diversity on Boards throughout the city. This is a worthy goal. However, when I look at my own Board, I feel that we are already well on our way to achieving this goal. We have been adding new members each year, so we do have a Board with diverse backgrounds, ages and beliefs.
As a community board member, I appreciate the wisdom and knowledge of many of my fellow board members who have served their communities on the Board for long periods of time. We have vacancies on my Board, so what would be the sense of removing longtime members and losing all of their experience and knowhow with Board concerns like land-use matters and other community issues?
Our newer members do not necessarily have this type of knowledge. They are learning, just as we all learn from interacting with each other. Removing longtime members would weaken Boards, in my opinion.
Board members are unpaid volunteers who spend many hours at monthly Board meetings and various committee meetings. Board members must reapply every two years and are appointed by the borough president with input from local Council members. If a Board member is not doing a good job, he or she may not be reappointed. Board membership is not a lifetime position.
Term limits for community board members do not make sense, in my opinion. I will be voting “no” on Proposal #3 as well as Proposal # 2. The proposals are on the back of the ballot.
— Henry Euler, Bayside