The words “term limits” will be too enticing for voters to resist in November, according to a Bensonhurst community board leader who predicted that a ballot proposition limiting the amount of time members can serve on neighborhood boards will likely be approved by New Yorkers.
William Guarinello, chairperson of Brooklyn’s Community Board 11 (Bensonhurst-Bath Beach-Mapleton) said voters going to the polls on Nov. 6 will favor the Charter Revision Commission’s proposal to impose term limits on members of the city’s 59 community board because the public generally agrees with the concept of term limits.
“People like term limits. It’s like the storming of the Bastille,” Guarinello told members at the community board’s Sept. 13 meeting at the Bensonhurst Health and Rehabilitation Center at 1740 84th St.
The Mayor’s Charter Revision Commission is recommending that members who are appointed or reappointed after April 1, 2019, be limited to serving four consecutive two-year terms.
There are 18 community boards in Brooklyn.
Mayor Bill de Blasio appointed the Charter Revision Commission last year to come up with recommendations on how to increase public participation in city government.
If voters approve the commission’s proposed changes, community board term limits will be added to the City Charter. The City Charter is akin to a Constitution. It is the document that lays out the structure and function of New York City’s government.
Under the current system, community board members, who are unpaid, serve two-year terms. There is currently no limit on the number of terms they can serve.
In the 1990s, the city’s residents voted to impose term limits on virtually all branches of city government, including the mayor, the borough presidents and the City Council.
New York City established community boards in 1963. The boards are comprised of up to 50 non-salaried members who either live or work in the neighborhood. The boards advise city agencies on land use matters, police and public safety and other issues.
Each board has a district manager, a salaried employee who the board hires to work with elected officials and city agencies to ensure the smooth delivery of city services such as sanitation collections and pothole repairs.
But while Guarinello did not publicly take a stand on term limits for community board members, he strongly hinted that he opposes them.
Guarinello, president and CEO of the non-profit agency HeartShare Human Services of New York, has been a CB 11 member for nearly 20 years.
Part of the idea for term limits is to ensure that community boards will see a steady flow of new faces, according to proponents.
That already happens, according to Guarinello.
“There is turnover all the time,” he said, adding that half of all board members are appointed based on recommendations from city councilmembers and that new councilmembers often appoint new community board members.
The boards benefit from having experienced hands on deck, Guarinello said. “I don’t think it has hurt the community to have continuity,” he said.
The Mayor’s Charter Revision Commission isn’t the only such panel looking at making changes to the City Charter.
Earlier this year, the City Council established a separate Charter Revision Commission to come up with recommendations to present for a public vote in November of 2019.