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City's Charter Revision Meeting Disrupted by Protesters

By DNAinfo Staff on July 26, 2010 10:44pm

Commission Chair Matthew Goldstein at the hearing Monday evening.
Commission Chair Matthew Goldstein at the hearing Monday evening.
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New York City Charter Revision Commission

By Jill Colvin

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

MIDTOWN — More than a dozen protesters from an organization representing low-income residents stormed the Harlem office building where Monday evening's Charter Revision Commission hearing was held, demanding more participation in the review process.

The members of Community Voices Heard chanted, "Tell me what Democracy looks like! This is what democracy looks like!" and waved signs as they entered the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building.

"We are here to remind you...that we have a voice and that we want to be heard!" the protesters cried, interrupting one of several hearings the Commission is holding on proposed ballot measures, including revised term limits and non-partisan elections.

After being granted permission to speak, the protesters took to the mic, blasting the revision process for moving too quickly and not being open enough to everyday residents' concerns.

They called on the board to spend more time discussing proposals to grant community boards more power and review land use procedures — issues they feel have been overshadowed by the debate on term limits.

They also called for an extension of the life of the Commission into 2012 to allow more time.

“If the goal is to increase civic participation in the most influential city in the world at a city level, residents have to be engaged. Anything less is politics as usual, and voters will be as uninspired as ever to turnout,” Ann Bragg, a member of the group, said in a statement distributed at the event.

Commissioner Hope Cohen noted that, once the Commission brings a measure to the ballot, as it is expected to do this year, the Commission is automatically dissolved and does not have the authority to extend its tenure, regardless of how much work is left to be done.

After the brief interruption, the meeting resumed as planned.

Ester R. Fuchschair of the 2005 Charter Revision Commission, urged the group to consider establishing a new commission to review the need to have dozens of city advisory boards and 175 required government reports — many of which she described as "worthless" wastes of time and money.

Deputy Mayor for Legal Affairs Carol A. Robles-Román also made the case for consolidating a dozen city administrative tribunals, including those that deal with contested parking tickets, public housing and taxis, which could save the city hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.

The Commission will hold its next public forums on Wednesday in Queens and on August 2nd in Staten Island. It expects to take a final vote on which measures will make it to the ballot on August 12th.