When you go to the polls on Tuesday, make sure to turn your ballots over. There are three ballot proposals to vote on. They are all aimed at revising the New York City charter, the legislative document that created the official city government. We sat down with Lynne Shinozaki, Roosevelt Island Residents Association Vice President and community board 8 member to hear her thoughts about these ballot proposals.
Campaign Finance: Increasing public matching funds for elections and reducing contribution limits
Campaign finance is a term used to describe the funding that’s related to promoting a candidate for elected office. The goal of this proposal is to address perceptions of corruption associated with large campaign contributions and incentivize candidates to fund their campaigns from everyday New Yorkers instead of wealthy donors. It would achieve this by lowering contribution limits, increasing public matching funds available to participating candidates and making funds available earlier in the process. Shinozaki's advice, "Vote yes to this one; let everyone have the chance to run for office - not only rich people."
Lynne Shinozaki is running unopposed for Roosevelt Island Residents Association president.
Civic Engagement: Establishing a commission to increase civic engagement
Civic engagement is participation by local residents in their neighborhoods, communities, and their City. It can take the form of participatory budgeting, volunteering, community involvement, attending town-hall meetings, testifying at public hearings, voting, or other forms of participation offered help to make a difference in a neighborhood or community.
This proposal calls for creating a Civic Engagement Commission to implement a citywide participatory budgeting program. It would consist of 15 members. The Mayor would appoint eight members, including at least one member from the largest political party and at least one member from the second largest political party; the Speaker of the City Council would appoint two members; and each Borough President would appoint one member.
Participatory budgeting is currently restricted to a handful of City Council districts, including ours – through participatory budgeting we won funds to install a green roof at PS/IS 217 in 2015. It allows residents to vote on how their City Council member uses their discretionary funds. This Civic Engagement Commission would look to expand participatory budgeting citywide no later than the fiscal year beginning on July 1, 2020, and establish a participatory budgeting advisory committee.
Things to think about: if we are happy with how participatory budgeting works in our district, do we need a commission? Would we get anything for our community if it were to become centralized? On the other hand, increasing civic engagement is always a good thing, and it would likely improve outcomes in districts where there is little civic engagement.
Shinozaki's take, is, "Make that a HELL NO!!!" Her understanding is that the commission would take participatory budgeting away from the community's choice. She believes it would go to "specially chosen puppets who will use it to help their friends get richer." She says, "We successfully use participatory budgeting for our community and we will probably not get anything for our community if this changes."
Community Boards: Imposing term limits for community board members
The City’s 59 community boards advise on land-use matters, liquor licenses, traffic safety, and other issues affecting the day-to-day lives of those who reside and work in their communities. On Monday, our community board is advising on a liquor license for the hot-pot restaurant that is coming to Main Street later this year.
Community boards also contribute a uniquely local perspective to decision-making at the City level with respect to the budget and the delivery of services. This proposal would require Borough Presidents to seek out diverse members, including with regard to race, ethnicity, gender, age, disability status, sexual orientation, and language. This proposal also calls for imposing term limits for community board members of four consecutive two-year terms. If someone spends two years out of office, he or she would then be eligible for reappointment, resetting the clock. Currently, community board members have no term limits, resulting in some serving for decades uninterrupted. This proposed change is intended to allow for more turnover and diverse voices regarding the most local form of city government.
This sounds good in theory. The counter-argument is that community board members are presented with very complex issues to vote on. There is a very long learning curve and newer members rely heavily on the knowledge of longer-term members to be effective. That's Shinozaki's view too. She says, "There is a very long learning curve here, people. I rely on the knowledge of people who have been on the board for decades when it comes to complex zoning issues. An appointment to a community board is a volunteer position. Special interest groups don't want us to learn how to champion for the people because it take years to learn some of the rules and laws only long term members have a chance at learning it and getting it right"
Ballot for November 6 election