Op-Ed | The Charter Review Commission is here to help its fellow New Yorkers

Diverse group of anonymous people walking down busy urban street with bright sunlight shining in the background in New York City
Photo via Getty Images

We all love our city and want to ensure New York City remains the greatest city in the world. That’s why, last month, Mayor Adams assembled our group — 13 diverse New Yorkers with diverse fields of expertise and lived experiences — to explore ways in which we can amend the City’s guiding document to achieve the vital objectives of improving public safety and boosting economic prosperity.  We know every New Yorker can agree on these important goals, even when it’s difficult to build political consensus. Simply put, we all want our city to be safe and prosperous.

As members of the newly formed Charter Review Commission, we have been tasked with reviewing the entire Charter. However, we are keen to focus on how the city’s Charter can contribute to public safety and provide opportunities for more significant community input and transparency when legislation is proposed that would impact that safety. We will also look to incorporate new levels of transparency in determining the actual financial impact of any proposed legislation before the City.

We can confidently affirm that these stated goals around safety and economic prosperity, in conjunction with a thorough review of the city’s Charter, are the only instructions we have received from the Adams administration. While we were appointed to this commission by Mayor Adams, we don’t work for him or any one elected official — we work for all New Yorkers.

At their core, Charter Review Commissions are about good government. Their aim is to find ways to make our city work better for New Yorkers across the five boroughs. Through a rigorous public process, a commission hears directly from New Yorkers, advocates, and elected officials in hearings that take place in each borough. To that end, every effort will be made to hold meetings at various times, including in the evenings, so that working-class New Yorkers can participate and share their experiences and needs with us. We are here to listen to our city and work to improve it.

Previous mayors have convened Charter Review Commissions to investigate various issues, including improving racial justice and equity, regulating land use projects, and determining term limits for elected officials. Under Mayor Bill de Blasio, his Charter Revision Commission created the Office of Civic Engagement and established term limits for community board members. Under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a commission instated term limits for the city’s elected officials, limiting them to two consecutive terms. These achievements were brought to different commissions by concerned citizens, thoroughly examined, approved to appear on citywide ballots, and, ultimately, voted into law at the polls. Those questions that you sometimes see on your ballot in November? They come from us after we hear from you.

Our group is outspoken and represents a variety of viewpoints, including, for the first time, those of three Black women: Jackie Rowe-Adams (no relation to the mayor or the Council speaker), who lost two sons to gun violence and co-founded Harlem Mothers Stop Another Violent End; Stephanie McGraw, the first Black woman to create a domestic violence agency in Harlem; and our vice-chair, Dr. Hazel N. Dukes, the president of the NAACP New York State Conference. 

We are religious, business, and civic leaders. We have spent our lives in public service on behalf of New Yorkers. Our chair, Carlo Scissura, has served on two previous Charter Review Commissions under two different mayors with two distinctly different outlooks.

We are all honored to serve on this commission and eager to hear from our fellow New Yorkers. We believe our city’s government works efficiently with greater transparency and responsiveness to those we serve. Our Charter Revision Commission is aware of the trust granted to us, and we take seriously our responsibility to help make our city’s government work better for every community.