Community Board 7 First Vice Chairman Chuck Apelian and one of his colleagues, John Choe, got into a heated back-and-forth on Monday about term limits for the advisory panels.
The subject has been intensely debated across the city. In the November general election, voters will decide whether the term limits become law.
The question is one of three ballot referenda created by Mayor de Blasio’s Charter Revision Commission, which has proposed limiting members to four two-year terms but allowing them to be reappointed to a board after not being on it for two years.
Community Board 7 represents College Point, Whitestone, Bay Terrace, Malba, Willets Point and most of Flushing. According to Choe, 52 percent of its constituency is Asian, but only 38 percent of the panel’s members are. Fifty-four percent of the board’s members are white, Choe said earlier this year, despite just 26 percent of the district being white. CB 7’s entire executive committee is white.
And just like other community boards in the city have done, CB 7 voted on Monday night for a resolution against the term limits proposal. Forty members of the panel approved it and only one — Choe — voted against it.
Speaking at the board meeting, he took serious issue with some of the resolution’s statements.
“Are you joking?” he said to CB 7 First Vice Chairman Chuck Apelian, who read the resolution being voted on. “Are you seriously saying that this community board represents the vast diversity of —”
“Absolutely,” Apelian said, pointing out that the resolution acknowledged that the board is “not going to be able to perfectly mimic” the demographic composition of its constituency.
Moments later, Choe, who testified in favor of term limits at Charter Revision Commission hearings, asked the first vice chairman if he spoke at any of them.
“No,” Apelian responded.
“Even though there were 19 hearings and meetings?” Choe shot back.
“I put my time into the community board. I didn’t go to the hearings,” Apelian said. “I know you did the opposite.”
After Choe said the first vice chairman had “plenty of opportunities” to speak at a hearing, CB 7 Chairman Gene Kelty intervened.
“That’s out of order, John,” he said, adding that board members were supposed to be asking questions.
Toward the end of the meeting, Choe made his case for why he believes there should be term limits on community board members. Aside from pointing out the demographic makeup of CB 7’s constituency and the ethnicity of board members, he brought up how city voters had decided in favor of term limits for municipal elected officials.
“Term limits are not undemocratic,” he said. “As I mentioned before, the people of the city spoke and voted for term limits. It’s a foundational part of our democracy.”
Apelian pushed back on the idea that term limits for community board members would represent “the will of the people,” though.
“The will of the people is in November,” Apelian said. “And we, in part of a spirited dialogue, which is what you call democracy, have every right to defend what we believe is right, whether you want to call it self-serving to play that card, whether you want to believe that we have the right, just like everybody else has the right, to say, we shouldn’t have [term limits].”