The day of democracy is here once again!
In September, there was abysmal turnout for the primary. Just 14% of the city’s actively registered Democrats turned out to vote; down 53% from the number who voted in last year’s presidential primary. (We are using this measure because it was mainly a democratic primary for citywide, borough and district elections.)
440,000 votes cast in a city of 4.3 million registered voters does not make an effective democracy. Here are some offices and issues at stake today. It’s an all-day rager; doors close at 9pm.
The incumbent Mayor, Public Advocate, and Comptroller are expected to sweep into second terms.
Biggest failures of his first term: Not doing enough to create or preserve affordable housing, some bizarre scandals involving donors, the ‘cheap symbolism’ of his insistence on exercising at the Park Slope YMCA, and his inability to get it together on fixing mass transit.
Public Advocate Letitia James is the first Black woman to hold a citywide elected office in NYC. She has weighed in on the debate over whether to remove the Columbus statue in the eponymous Circle (Verdict: it should stay as a history lesson). And she gave a genuinely moving interview in Cosmopolitan about how it’s okay to cry.
A deep Google search for any kind of serious complaint or valid opposition to her reelection turned up literally nothing, which in a city that finds something to complain about in everything is quite the feat. Her Republican (and Stop de Blasio) Party challenger, J. C. Polanco, has an interesting proposal to give NYC Housing Authority residents the chance to own their homes, among other ideas.
The Conservative candidate lists eliminating both “Pay to Play” policies and Sanctuary Cities as top issues; he does not appear to have a website or very active online presence. His last Tweet was on October 31. Devin Balkind, the Libertarian candidate, wants the public to become their own public advocate. He is proposing to create app-enabled public participation processes and has created a tool that makes the components of the NYC budget easier to read and understand.
Comptroller Scott Stringer is slated to win reelection. In July, he broke with de Blasio and argued that NYC should pay for part of the cost of improving subway service, saying that the money is there. His opponent Michael J. Faulkner (no relation to William claimed) is a former New York Jet who wants to bring “new spirit” to the office (Yes, he is a Gemini).
In all five boroughs, the sitting Presidents are up for reelection and expected to win. In 2013, Eric Adams ran unopposed in Brooklyn which set him up for widespread skepticism, but he has proven himself dedicated to the post and has an adorable Instagram.
For City Council races by district, check out this handy info by City Limits.
Also on the ballot are three statewide measures:
Proposal 1: Calling a State Constitutional Convention
If the majority vote yes, then in April 2019, 204 delegates (3 from each state senate district) and 15-at-large delegates will review the New York State constitution and suggest amendments, which could potentially lead to rewriting the whole constitution. If the majority vote no, there will be no convention. New York’s last convention was in 1967. The next opportunity for one will be in 2037.
Pros: The NYS constitution remains largely unchanged since 1938; this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make sweeping legislative reform that the state direly needs in order to function better. Janos Marton, former member of the Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption, writes that “the issues that would likely have the most momentum are measures such as voting rights, campaign finance reform and ethics reform – issues that will not pass through the regular legislative process because they call on legislators to vote against their own self-interest and grip on power. Importantly, the city could use the convention to push for changes to Home Rule, which would allow greater self-governance in issues ranging from housing policy to control of the MTA.”
Cons: Opponents are concerned about the risk that the delegate selection process will be flawed and the elected delegates won’t represent the will of the people. To counter this, Marton states, “The structure of the convention, including the delegate process and mechanism for adopting delegate recommendations will not allow for some nefarious Koch brothers takeover…The constitutional convension will be, at worst, a futile exercise in democratic process. At best, it could yield tremendous, even transformative change.”
For some fine-tuned thoughts, read this Village Voice article.
Proposal 2: Allowing the complete or partial forfeiture of a public officer’s pension if he or she is convicted of a certain type of felony
The question to ask yourself here is: Are you into paying the pensions of people convicted of a felony that directly related to the performance of their job (non-job felonies aren’t included)? If the majority vote yes, this would apply to crimes committed on or after January 1, 2018.
Proposal 3: Authorizing the use of forest reserve land for specified purposes
This is unfortunately much less straightforward than you might think: Some towns adjacent to the Adirondack and Catskill State Parks have been unable to make needed infrastructure updates without a constitutional amendment.
This amendment would allow municipalities and counties to use forest preserve land for infrastructure upgrades if they have no viable alternative, and in exchange contribute money to a forest preserve expansion account.
The question to ask yourself is: Do you trust the legislators of New York State to dutifully monitor the forest preserve account and make sure that all land is being replaced?
Also, for more information on the Constitutional Convention, here’s our low down on how New Yorkers Can Vote to Change the State Constitution.