Upper West Side Community Board Members Confused About New Term Limit Rules

Community Board 7 members at a past meeting.

By Alex Israel

Voters approved a measure on Tuesday to place term limits on community board members. But local community board members are not sure when that will take effect.

During November’s full Community Board 7 meeting, board members tried to understand the implications of Tuesday’s midterm election results, to some confusion. There are 50 members of the local Community Board 7, appointed by Borough President Gale Brewer.

Deputy Borough President Aldrin Bonilla attended the meeting to represent Brewer’s office. Following his regular updates, he was asked by a concerned board member what Tuesday’s “yes” vote on the third ballot initiative means moving forward.

Bonilla struggled to answer with any concrete details, explaining that the Borough President’s office will be working with various commissioners to better understand the next steps. “If you’ve noticed from reading the ballot language, ballot proposal number two and ballot proposal number three are notoriously vague. So I can’t really tell you that we can inform more,” he said.

Bonilla went on to outline the general idea of the third ballot proposal, which places limitations on the number of consecutive terms community board members can serve. Currently, they are allowed to serve for an unlimited amount of two-year terms; the ballot limits this to four consecutive terms. Several Upper West Side members have served for longer than that, although the board did not have an answer for West side Rag when we asked earlier this year how many had served more than four terms.

Bonilla said it was “doubtful” that the new rules would go into effect for the 2019 appointments, as he believes the measure is not intended to be retroactive. “The ballot initiative language was very, very vague,” he reiterated.

Another community board member jumped in, trying to shed some light on the situation. “My reading of it is that if you’re reappointed in 2019 you get four additional terms. If you’re reappointed in 2020 you get five additional terms,” he said, explaining that the idea is to stagger the rollout of the initiative.

“I think we’ll find out soon enough,” Community Board 7 Chair Roberta Semer chimed in, cutting the conversation short to move on to the next agenda item.

“The whole issue about the ballot vote is a very sore spot, as you can imagine,” Bonilla said earlier in the evening, addressing some questions about the second ballot initiative, which calls for the creation of an external Civic Engagement Commission. Brewer had campaigned against ballot items two and three.

“We hope that the ballot initiatives and the results mean that people honestly want to bring the resources and the support to the table, to help community boards. If that happens, we’re happy.”

NEWS | 20 comments | permalink
    1. Sid says:

      “Several Upper West Side members have served for longer than that, although the board did not have an answer for West side Rag when we asked earlier this year how many had served more than four terms.”

      You don’t need the Community Board to tell you that. If you go to CB7’s website, you can get Minutes from every meeting dating back at least 15 years (if not more) and figure out from there how long certain members have been on the board.

    2. steve says:

      that is a ridiculous interpretation and not how laws work. If a term limit is implemented, it means that if it’s your fourth term, it’s time to step down. It doesn’t mean we imagine some fantasy scenario where everyone starts from zero.

      • Bruce E. Bernstein says:

        actually, i think that IS how term limits work… you start at zero from when the law passed.

        I think that is how it worked with CIty COuncil.

    3. Leon says:

      The intention of this initiative, at least as I was reading it, was not to have the whole board roll off at once. There is definitely a lot of value to retaining institutional knowledge. Ideally, board members would have staggered terms so that roughly a quarter would roll off every two years.

      The problem arises if a number of members quit at once and the stagger gets thrown off. The devil is in the details. Hopefully someone with some brains will be working out those details.

    4. E. Nuff's Enuff says:

      Re: “place term limits on community board members.”

      The only city agency that REALLY NEEDS TO BE TERM LIMITED is the BOARD of ELECTIONS!

      And, after Tuesday’s debacle, their clock needs to be set back SO THAT THEIR TIME IS UP NOW!!

      Anyone who saw the BoE’s ridiculous pre-Election Day “commercial” (and what did THAT cost us??) will agree.

      Bye-bye BoE, and as you leave, don’t let the door hit you in the butt…We NYers would rather do that!

    5. soldier says:

      Borough President position is the clearest form of sinecure, just providing a paycheck (paid by us) and free health insurance to useless nomenclature drolls. We owe them nothing. ABOLISH BOROUGH PRESIDENT POSITION.

      • B.B. says:

        Well for once am in total agreement. Maybe we need to start some sort of ballot initiative or something similar to what got us term limits.

        Borough president offices are nothing more than patronage positions that dole out funds. Much or all of what they do can be parcel out to city council members representing various districts.

        We only got BPs after the old Board of Estimate was declared unconstitutional and subsequently scrapped.

      • Bruce E. Bernstein says:

        you obviously have no idea what the Borough President’s office does, nor any sense of the effectiveness and hard work of our current Borough President (Gale Brewer). Gale is one of the most popular elected officials in NYC.

        but throwing uninformed mudballs at people is so very easy.

        • NativeNYer says:

          Former Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messinger is responsible for the nonsmoking laws in New York City. I agree that facts supersede slinging mud balls!

    6. Frank says:

      I can’t believe I was in the vast minority of New Yorkers than voted “No” on initiative 2 and 3. Some of these give a lot more power to the mayor – something no mayor of this city needs.

      Did people actually read these things or understand what they were? Did the random and politically strategic use of the word “diverse” on initiative 3 just make so many check “Yes”? Did we even define what “diverse” meant here? Of course not. Simply bait used by our mayor to coerce a vote that gives him and his machine more power.

    7. Ken says:

      To answer the question, 20 members of CB7 who were on the board in the fall of 2010 are still on the board.

    8. Sean says:

      Some of these people have been on the board since Moses.

    9. Bruce E. Bernstein says:

      one correction to the above article:

      Community Boards are 50% appointed by the Borough President and 50% appointed by the local Council member(s).

    10. Erica says:

      When I attempted to join CB7 two years ago the meet and greet downtown told me what I needed to know within five minutes. Mafia type rule, and high school cliques. Term limits are a good thing.

    11. David Owens says:

      Not sure what should be done… But there should just be a way for very qualified, life long residents of the Community and willing to serve persons to get on the board.

    12. Pedestrian says:

      The Charter Revision questions were so ambiguous and complex. Anyone who voted yes could not have spent any time reading them and parsing out the various elements. The questions were complex but they could not hide the real reasons they were posted in such a way….a power trap for the Mayor and REBNY.

      Anyone who voted yes will rue the day.

    13. Eln Lou says:

      I totally agree with you, Frank & Jan!!! I voted NO on both of them too!!

    14. NYWoman says:

      This all comes down to the power given to the Civic Engagement Commission. Here is the proposal’s text “The City’s community boards are advisory bodies with a formal role
      designated by the City Charter in various matters, including land use. This Charter amendment would: (a) impose term limits of a maximum of four consecutive full two-year terms for community board members with certain exceptions for the initial transition to the new term limits system; (b) require
      Borough Presidents to seek out persons of diverse backgrounds in making appointments to community boards and set forth application and reporting mandates related to such appointments; and (c) require the proposed Civic Engagement Commission to provide resources, assistance, and training
      related to land use and other matters to community boards. Term Limits. Community board members are appointed by the
      Borough Presidents, with input by City Council Members and community groups. For each community district, the Borough President appoints up to 50 community board members for staggered two-year terms. The Charter does not currently impose term limits for community board members. This proposal
      would limit appointment of community board members to four consecutive two year
      terms, starting with terms for which appointments or reappointments are made on or after April 1, 2019. However, members appointed or reappointed for a term commencing on April 1, 2020, could be reappointed for up to five consecutive two-year terms, in order to prevent a heavy turnover of community board membership in 2027 and 2028. Appointments made for terms
      commencing after April 1, 2020, would be subject to four consecutive two-year term limits. These term limits would be prospective only; terms served before
      April 1, 2019, or April 1, 2020, would not count toward the term limits that start on those dates. Additionally, members who have served for the maximum number of consecutive terms would not be barred from re-appointment afterone full term out of office” https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/charter/downloads/pdf/2018_charter_revision_commission_abstracts_1_pdf.PDF