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NY1 Exclusive: Charter Commission Won't Seek Elimination of Borough BPs, City PA

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A group that could forever change the structure of city government as New Yorkers know it may spare the Public Advocate and Borough President positions, but could set its sights on ending political primaries in the city. NY1's Grace Rauh filed the following report.

Even before Mayor Michael Bloomberg appointed the 15 members of the city's charter revision commission, political circles were abuzz with questions about whether the group charged with proposing changes to the city's chief governing document might try to eliminate the Public Advocate's seat and the office of Borough President, perhaps in the name of budget belt tightening.

But in an exclusive interview on NY1's "Inside City Hall," Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson said he doesn't think that's on the table. Instead, the top aide to Mayor Bloomberg said he thinks the commission will focus on term limits and may possibly propose ending political primaries in the city.

Any proposed changes to the charter must be approved by city voters.

"The mayor believes that the city would be better off without partisan primary. He is a strong proponent on nonpartisan elections," Wolfson said.

In 2003, city voters rejected a proposal for nonpartisan elections. At the time, Wolfson worked for the state Democratic party and successfully fought to defeat the measure.

This go-around, he has a different boss. And he predicted that if the issue was put before New Yorkers again, it could yield a different result.

"There is widespread concern on the part of voters with the status quo," Wolfson said.

On Tuesday, the commission wrapped up its first round of public hearings in Downtown Brooklyn. The panel has taken some heat, however, for holding the meetings so close to Manhattan.

Politicians have also weighed in, with many calling for charter changes that would increase their office's authority or power.

City Comptroller John Liu, for example, wants the city's succession law to be changed so that the comptroller -- and not the public advocate -- would be next in line to temporarily take over, should anything happen to the mayor.

"In order to ensure the continuity of the vital services that city agencies provide, it just makes sense to have an elected official who is well versed in all of these agencies. Again, not about me. But the Comptroller probably has most of that knowledge." Liu said.

Not surprisingly, the suggestion drew a swift rebuke from the man currently second-in-line to replace the mayor -- Public Advocate Bill de Blasio.

In a statement, he said, "There are too many other issues that matter to New Yorkers for us to make charter revision just about expanding the authority of political offices."

Wolfson also said on NY1 that changes to the succession law are likely off the table.

Meanwhile, the commission is scheduled to begin next month a series of forums that will focus on specific issues like term limits, the way development decisions are made, or nonpartisan elections.

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