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Charter reform proposals include modest tweak to ULURP, ranked-choice voting; early voting starts today

Hey, there's an election. Not a big one--the only citywide vote is whether incumbent Jumaane Williams gets re-elected as public advocate--but, as City Limits' Jarrett Murphy put it, Charter Reform Proposals: One Big Change and Lots of Modest (But Important) Tweaks.

And people can start early voting now on those proposals. (Find your poll site location here.)

The big change is in Question 1, to allow ranked-choice voting, allowing up to five preferences. If there is no majority winner, the last place candidate would be eliminated and any voter who had that candidate as their top choice would have their vote transferred to their next choice.

This would eliminate the possibility, for example, of a disliked incumbent getting re-elected with 30% of the votes, while a set of challengers split the opposition. In the latter case, presumably those voting for a challenger would limit their secondary choices to other challengers, thus eventually electing a challenger.

This also would eliminate the need for run-off elections, which the Independent Budget Office says could save $20 million every four years. (Here's more on the rationale for ranked-choice voting, from Gotham Gazette.)

ULURP changes

Two relatively small changes are proposed to the city’s Uniform Land-Use Review Procedure, or ULURP. One would be to extend the amount of time for Community Boards to assess projects under review after they are certified--by the Department of City Planning--from 60 days to 90 days for applications certified in June, and to 75 days for applications certified between July 1 and July 15.

That would allow the CBs to regroup after summer vacation, when they often don't meet, and/or can't get quorums.

Somewhat more significantly, rather than blindside the CBs and the Borough President, projects would have to be presented at least 30 days before the application is certified for public review.

As Murphy wrote, Common Cause-New York executive director Susan Lerner and Rachel Bloom, policy director at Citizens Union "concurred that the land-use changes reflect the commission’s failure to grapple with the most significant problems facing the city."

The New York Times recommended a yes on all except for the ULURP questions:
This ballot measure would give community boards an additional 15 to 30 days to review land-use projects proposed by City Hall in the summer months, when the community boards aren’t in session. The city has an urgent need to build more affordable housing, fast. Delaying that already lengthy, onerous process isn’t an option the city should consider.
The ballot question also includes an innocuous measure that would require City Hall to give a summary of land-use proposals to borough officials and relevant community boards at least 30 days before the public review begins.
Um, that also would apply to land-use project proposed by private developers in the summer months, aiming to evade scrutiny.

The bigger picture

Gotham Gazette reported that several elected officials support all five ballot questions, but not all have spoken out. Mayor Bill de Blasio has been quiet. Presumably, as Election Day approaches, various newspapers will endorse some or all proposals. 

As Gotham Gazette noted, you'll have to read carefully:
The 19 city charter amendments being put before voters will appear on the back of the ballot in miniscule, 7.5-point font. The proposed amendments, presented in five “yes” or “no” questions, cover large swaths of the city’s core governing document and if approved have the potential to alter key components of how the city operates.

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