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New York Law School Law Review

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On November 7, 1989, the voters of the City of New York approved, by a vote of fifty-five percent to forty-five percent, the broadest and most radical changes to their Charter since 1901. These changes abolished the City's historic Board of Estimate, while preserving a borough voice in government, expanding and increasing the powers of the City Council, retooling almost all of the City's significant decision-making processes, and adding a myriad of other changes. These changes were the product of a revision process that started in mid-1987 with the first hearings of an initial Charter revision commission, and moved to an intense and dramatic pace after March 23, 1989, when the Supreme Court declared the voting system of the Board of Estimate unconstitutional in Board of Estimate v. Morris. ...

This article is our exposition on how we arrived at these conclusions and how we tried to shape the Charter to respond to them. It is our story. While it quotes and describes positions taken in 1989 by other Commission members, it does not try to depict the unexpressed reasoning of other participants whose stories, without a doubt, would be different. Nor is our goal to detail or even explore each of the multitude of decisions that represent the Commission's work. Our focus is on the most significant and most controversial issues that confronted the Commission and how they were resolved through the weighing of legal, policy, and political considerations. Through this exploration, we hope to provide the background for what we did and why we did it.