no. no. no.

#1: Campaign Finance

“…take direct aim at persistent perceptions of corruption associated with large campaign contributions, while simultaneously boosting incentives for campaigns to reach out to small donors.” (Final Report, p. 20)

  • Where there’s smoke, is there fire? The Final Report offers no evidence of corruption stemming from the existing campaign finance system, which it also effusively praises.
  • A system for identifying potential quid pro quo corruption already exists. It’s called the Doing Business Portal. Every vendor contract with the City is required to be part of this database, along with the individuals who own vendor companies.
  • The proposed solution doesn’t fit the stated problem. Improvements to the Doing Business Portal can vastly increase transparency around the connection between vendor contract awards and political contributions. What’s the degree of compliance with data submissions? What’s the lag time between contract award and data submission? Can the City automate the connection between the CFB campaign contribution system to enable near-real-time, automated disclosures.
  • Smaller campaign contribution limits are a good thing.
  • Increased public match makes sense, but can also incentivize potential bad actors.
  • Earlier matching funds eligibility addresses a real problem. The current system provides a relatively small disbursement in 3 months before the primary. The first large disbursement generally occurs weeks before the primary.
  • The proposal can also be enacted legislatively.

#2: Civic Engagement

“…strong public sentiment that it is important to explicitly embed the values of civic participation in the Charter, and to move toward focusing, integrating and expanding the City’s efforts to engage all its residents in civic life.” (Final Report, p. 48)

  • What is “civic engagement” actually and do New Yorkers have a problem here? The Final Report defines it by what it’s not, “declining levels of public trust, confidence, and participation in civic institutions and activities,” but then continues to say that New Yorkers already have a lot of it, by “contribut[ing] to civic life in ways that demonstrate a deep connection to each other and the communities.” (Final Report, p. 47)
  • So if improvements are needed in something that New Yorkers already do well, but somehow a new governance structure is needed for that thing, whatever it is, I always wonder who benefits from the design and the operational effort and costs. One thing is clear: this new Commission is directly linked to Proposal #3 by giving the Mayor direct influence over the Community Boards. If Proposal #3 fails to pass, then Fix #3 is rendered meaningless.
  • I’m surprised there’s no discussion of the role of civics education.
  • I’ve been a fan of participatory budgeting since its inception, for which Brad Lander deserves many kudos. Expanding this to the entire city is a terrific idea. It’s a big enough effort that it deserves its own dedicated staff. If this proposal were limited to this, I would be a huge “YES.” Like with the small dollar aspects of campaign finance, this could also be accomplished legislatively.
  • Poll-site interpreters are a great idea. So is early voting. Electronic poll books. Multi-day voting. A real online voter registration system. What is common to all these ideas? They are controlled by the state’s Board of Elections, which sits over the city Board of Elections. Let’s say Dems take control of the state Legislature for the first time as I wrote about, voting reforms will almost certainly be passed, precipitating a necessary battle with the Board of Elections, whose Board is 50% Democrat, 50% Republican as established in the State’s Constitution.
  • Community-based organizations would certainly appreciate financial support and other partnership assistance. But how would you measure this? Without a clear way to measure this, it’s easy to claim success and avoid failure.

#3: Community Boards

“…some community boards do not always live up to their potential to transmit and amplify the voices of all members of the community.” (Final Report, p. 48)

  • How many New Yorkers actually know what Community Boards actually do? Or that they even exist? Is it possible for Community Boards to fulfill their role if that community is unaware and uninvolved?
  • I agree with calls for transparency, but these often come in the wake of something gone wrong, which begs the question, “What’s gone wrong?” I personally have lots of questions about the community boards and real estate developers seeking to enlarge projects. How rigorous is the disclosure of conflicts? Can this be tied into a system like the Doing Business Portal for automated conflict reporting?
  • Transparency today means technology for document management, collaboration, streaming video of meetings, and the digital distribution of publicly available agendas, minutes and meeting materials. The DOITT requirement goes part of the way there.
  • I support transparency with respect to Board members, along with the requirement that they represent a district’s diversity.
  • Proposal #2 creates the opening for the Mayor to influence Community Boards, potentially diminishing the power of Borough Presidents and City Council members. Proposal #2 can be defeated with minimal impact to Proposal #3.




Founder of Allie: Critical Infrastructure for the Volunteer Economy. Former 2021 Candidate for NYC Mayor.

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Art Chang

Art Chang

Founder of Allie: Critical Infrastructure for the Volunteer Economy. Former 2021 Candidate for NYC Mayor.

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