WHAT IS THE CHARTER
The NYC Charter is the foundation of how our City functions and governs, and it has a direct impact on the way we live and work.
How Do We Change It?
The Charter can be changed by legislation or by the creation of a charter revision commission, which is a temporarily appointed government body charged with reviewing the entire City Charter and proposing amendments (or changes) that are voted upon by the public in a general election. Often, charter revision commissions perform research, speak with experts and community leaders, and conduct public meetings and hearings as they make decisions about what proposed charter changes to put before the public. A charter revision commission can make proposals that change the entire charter or a specific section. The last major revisions to the City Charter were presented to voters in 2019 and included a range of ballot proposals that covered issues ranging from ranked choice voting and land use to police accountability.
Typical Steps to Revise the NYC Charter
- Establish a commission to review the City Charter (the Mayor, City Council, State Legislature or citizen petition can initiate this process. The commission can be made up of up to 15 people. A staff of City employees is appointed to support them).
- The Commissioners review the entire charter, conduct research, receive public input, and deliberate on proposals.
- The Commissioners issue a final report that includes the ballot proposals.
- Proposals are placed on the ballot.
- Proposals approved by voters are adopted and the Charter is amended.
Examples of 2019 City Charter Proposals
- Institute ranked-choice voting
- Approve changes to the Civilian Complaint Review Board
- Allow earlier Community Board review of land use applications
- Authorize a ‘rainy day fund’ and other budget changes
- Extend a ban on lobbying to two years for former elected officials
- Give City Council oversight over the Mayor’s proposed Corporation Counsel (City’s top lawyer)
What Charter Revisions Can and Cannot Do
Charter Changes CAN:
Alter forms of local government or type(s) of electoral representation to better align with and meet the needs and preferences of citizens
Restrict or increase the policy options available to local government leaders
Redistribute powers among the City’s elected officials, appointed officials, governing bodies, and between City officials and citizens
Clarify confusion or ambiguity caused by existing Charter language
Set the stage for City officials to achieve desired changes
Convert City elected governmental positions to appointed ones (and vice versa)
Charter Changes Cannot:
Automatically increase the quality of governmental services (education, public safety, etc.)
Stop a controversial public project
Eliminate political in-fighting
Contradict or supplant state or federal government actions or legislation