This Week in New York – Charter Revision Commission, Preliminary Budget Hearings, and Increased Funding to Address Opioid Crisis 

The New York Note

Competing Calls to Establish a Charter Revision Commission

In his January 2018 State of the City Address, Mayor de Blasio announced his plan to appoint a Charter Revision Commission tasked with reviewing current City campaign finance laws. This Commission was announced as a component of the Mayor’s broader DemocracyNYC initiative, which is intended to increase New Yorkers’ civic engagement. Late last week, the Mayor officially announced the formation of the Commission, appointing Cesar Perales as Chair, Rachel Godsil as Vice Chair, and Matt Gewolb as Executive Director and Counsel. The Mayor intends to appoint all of the members of the Commission and the remaining members of the Commission are expected to be announced over the next few weeks. The first public meeting of the Commission is expected to be held in early April and the Commission has been instructed to complete its work in time for their proposed amendments to the Charter to be put to a referendum vote in the November 2018 general election. Click here for more information about the Mayor’s announcement.

Over the past months, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Public Advocate Letitia James have also been calling for the City to form a Charter Revision Commission tasked with undertaking a top to bottom review of the City Charter. The City Council has joined the Borough President and Public Advocate in calling for a full review of the Charter and last week, the Council held a Committee on Governmental Operations hearing on Int. 0241-2018, which would establish a separate Charter Revision Commission which would be comprised of 15 members: four appointed by the Mayor and four appointed by the Speaker of the Council. The Public Advocate, Comptroller, and each Borough President would have one appointment. The Speaker of the City Council would then designate one of the appointees as chairperson. The Council has not yet voted on Int. 241-2018 and we understand that the Council is in the process of making minor revisions to the bill in response to feedback received during last week’s hearing. The City has established Charter Revision Commissions periodically over the past 20 years, most recently in 2010, however each of these Commissions has been tasked with reviewing discrete aspects of the Charter and if the Charter Revision Commission moves forward as proposed under the Council’s legislation, it would be the first Commission tasked with reviewing the Charter in its totality since 1989. The Council’s Commission would be tasked with completing its work in time for their proposed changes to be put to a referendum vote in November 2019.

It is our understanding that the Mayor’s Charter Revision Commission is expected to move forward as originally envisioned by the Mayor and that at this time, there are no plans to reconcile the Council and Mayor’s efforts. 

Preliminary Budget Hearings

This week, the City Council continued to hold preliminary budget hearings for a variety of city agencies. On Tuesday, Dr. Mary Basset, the Commissioner of the Department of Health and Mental Services, provided insights on her agency’s efforts to combat the opioid crisis and provide mental health services across the five boroughs. In her testimony, the commissioner revealed that the city experienced a 23% increase in New Yorkers’ receiving outpatient treatment over the past four years. The commissioner additionally defended the ThriveNYC mental health initiative, which many mental health advocates criticize for its focus on anxiety and depression rather than more serious and persistent mental health issues like schizophrenia.

While testifying before the Committee on Mental Health and Addiction, Commissioner Basset conveyed her support for supervised injection facilities and claimed that DOHMH will present more information on the subject in their opioid study due in April. This report supports Mayor de Blasio’s goal of decreasing opioid overdose-related deaths by 35% this year.
Related Press:
Bassett defends ThriveNYC’s focus at Council budget hearing

Mayor Announces Increased Funding to Address Opioid Crisis

Earlier this week, the Mayor announced a $22 million annual increase to address the city’s opioid crisis. This money will help DOHMH improve their crisis response, intervention and treatment clinics.

In addition, the City Council Committee on Finance, Chaired by Council Member Danny Dromm, and the Subcommittee on the Capital Budget, Chaired by Council Member Vanessa Gibson, held a joint hearing on the Mayor’s FY19 preliminary capital budget, which includes $11 billion in new capital spending citywide. In addition, the Council reviewed the City’s capital budgeting processes broadly, using this opportunity to express concerns about inefficiencies in the City’s current processes and about the impact shifts in lending rates may have on the City’s annual capital debt service costs. The Council emphasized that this will be an area of focus for the Council moving forward and we anticipate the City’s capital budget will have a more prominent role in this year’s budget negotiations overall. It is important to note that the Council has been reviewing the City’s overall capital budget and at this time, seems less focused on examining City funding that is annually awarded to nonprofit organizations undertaking capital projects. To read more about the City’s preliminary capital budget and the City Council’s oversight, click here


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Rose Christ

Co-Chair, New York Practice, Cozen O’Connor Public Strategies

(212) 883-2248

Katie Schwab

Co-Chair, New York Practice, Cozen O’Connor Public Strategies

(212) 883-4913

Related Practices

Please contact Katie SchwabRose Christ or Reggie Thomas of Cozen O'Connor Public Strategies with any questions you may have regarding this note or if you’re interested in ways to engage on these issues.