To The Editor:
The NYC Charter Revision Commission is currently considering various changes to the city charter that would amend various governmental practices in our city. Public hearings have been held giving the people a chance to give their opinions on governmental matters that need to be changed or improved. The Commission will then issue a report that will discuss findings and recommendations to change the city charter. These changes will be brought before the voters for their approval or disapproval in the general election.
With regards to community boards, there have been proposals that community board members should be term limited. I disagree with that stance. I have served on my local community board for several years and have seen first hand the importance of experience on my Board. The institutional knowledge that our seasoned Board members possess assist with decision making with frequent regularity. Many of the experienced people on my Board have lived in their communities for long periods of time and understand the needs and workings of those communities.
This year, six new members joined my Board. Last year, six other new members joined as well. We still have six vacancies on my Board. I believe that we have an excellent mix in terms of diversity, age, and viewpoints. My Board is changing naturally, with long time members gradually leaving the Board and those positions being replaced by new people every year. There is no need to remove from the Board knowledgeable unpaid volunteers who have served with distinction and integrity over the course of several years to better their communities. I believe that this is the case for many of the Boards across the City. Term limiting will result in weaker Boards, in my opinion, because of the loss of experienced members.
Every Board member must renew their membership every two years. The local City Council Member and the Borough President decide whether to re-appoint the Board member or not. If there are issues with a Board member, that member may not be reappointed. So serving on a local Board is not a lifetime appointment.
It is important that all community voices are heard on our community boards. Even though Boards are only advisory in nature, all sectors of the community merit representation on those Boards. I would urge all community members who are interested, to consider joining their local Boards. Applications (they are online at queensbp.org) are filed in January, with appointments announced in March.
Editorial Board Response:
Your editorial touches on a recurring debate over the value of term limits versus the drawbacks. There is no question that term limits are a limit on the choice of voters and communities. If the people want to send the same person back to office year in and year out, they should have that right. If that right is taken away, there should first be a very compelling case to do so.
In modern politics, we have seen how the lack of term limits has allowed some individuals to manipulate the system and obtain more power than many voters and constituents feel they should have. It’s the Queens Tribune editorial board’s belief that the cause of this abuse has not been a lack of term limits, but instead other flaws in the system that limit voters’ power.
We think elected officials and the charter commission should probably focus on some of these other limitations on voting power first before tackling the issue of term limits.