Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Board of Estimate survives on paper

From the NY Times:

Of the 150 references to the board [of estimate] in the administrative code alone, some describe actions that had been taken by the board before it was abolished and others refer to the board “or its successor.” But many read as if the board still existed.

Complying with a United States Supreme Court ruling that the board violated the one-person, one-vote principal (since the borough presidents, representing counties with divergent populations, had equal votes), a charter revision commission recommended the board’s abolition. In 1989, the voters agreed. Most of the powers were transferred to the City Council. References to the board still exist in the City Charter itself, although the revised charter’s abolition of the board presumably takes precedence legally.

Amending the administrative code of city rules and regulations is the Council’s job. The Council has been doing just that, but on a case-by-case basis as legislation on a particular subject is drafted. When two local laws on recycling were amended in 2010, for example, references to the Board of Estimate were removed.

Peter F. Vallone, the former Council speaker, recalls that in 1990, legislation was drafted to remove all anachronistic references to “the board” and replace them with “the Council” or another relevant agency or body. For reasons nobody seemed able to explain, that legislation was never approved.

So 22 years after the last vote on its 580-item calendar — a proposal to expand a United Parcel Service warehouse in Lower Manhattan — and Frank New, sitting in for Mayor David N. Dinkins, gaveled the board into terminal adjournment, it survives on paper.

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