The General Election this Tuesday does not involve the highest offices in the country, state, or city, but it offers voters an opportunity to alter the city’s “constitution” with five questions concerning conflicts of interest, community-police relations, voting, budget, and land use. It also offers a final say on the full terms ahead for Public Advocate and Queens District Attorney.
“New York City has a revolving door between city government and those who profit off of government, allowing elected officials and agency heads to take jobs with companies that had business before them,” wrote Manhattan Councilman Ben Kallos in a statement supporting Question 3. “Currently, they must only wait one year before lobbying the agency or branch of government they served in... This question would double the length of our city’s revolving-door prohibition to two years, giving the public more confidence in their government and guarding against actual or perceived corruption.”
The fight to distance former elected officials from industries that benefited from their legislative work is among the items for which progressive groups have fought, noting that many retired politicians return under the federal and state capitol domes as lobbyists and company executives, giving the impression that lawmakers and industries work for each other.
Responding to concerns that elections do not offer enough candidate choices for voters, Question 1 introduces ranked choice voting to city elections. In crowded primary and special elections, voters would have the option of marking their favorite pick, second favorite, and so on. This procedure would eliminate the costly and low-participation runoff elections that occur between two frontrunners when neither secures the majority of the vote. Ranked choice voting is used to elect leaders in Australia, Canada, and Ireland. In this country, the state of Maine, and the cities of Oakland, San Francisco, and Minneapolis adopted the practice, also known as an instant runoff.
Question 2 would expand the power of the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB): The police watchdog panel would receive a written explanation from the police commissioner whenever the NYPD decides not to adopt a recommendation from CCRB. The measure would also expand the panel’s membership from 13 to 15, raise its budget, and most importantly, allow the CCRB to investigate the truthfulness of police statements made before it, and compel attendance by enforcing subpoenas issued by this panel. Endorsed by a host of progressive and police reform groups, it is vehemently opposed by the Police Benevolent Association, the union representing the city’s cops. “An emboldened CCRB would...embolden anti-police extremists, and reduce the authority of the Police Commissioner. Such an environment will make it more difficult for officers to do their jobs, leading to a chilling effect on law enforcement that will make the city less safe,” the PBA statement noted.
With Jumaane Williams winning the special election earlier this year for Public Advocate, he is on the ballot again to vie for a full term at the office that is a councilman-at-large, watchdog of mayoral agencies, and designated successor in a mayoral vacancy. From his experience as a Brooklyn Councilman, Williams has a long record of advocating against racial profiling, defending tenants’ rights, and criminal justice reform. At the same time, he had a good relationship with the Orthodox constituents of his former district. Williams ran in 2018 as a primary insurgent for Lieutenant Governor, losing to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s incumbent ally Kathy Hochul.
In the special election last February, Republican Eric Ulrich narrowly lost to Williams and declined to challenge him again. The urban elephant on the ballot next week is his Staten Island colleague Joe Borelli, a former Assemblyman prior to his election to City Council in 2015.
An unapologetic supporter of President Donald Trump, he chaired his state presidential primary campaign in 2016. In typical millennial fashion, the 37-year-old’s campaign statement for the city’s Campaign Finance Board’s Voter Guide is filled with humor. His top three issues are “Stopping the De Blasio Agenda,” repeated three times. “Imagine how much money was wasted in sending this booklet to every registered voter in a city of 8.5 million people,” he wrote in his statement. “It’s but one example of how little those in City Hall actually value the taxpayers like you who are left footing the bill. Who speaks for your family?”
In a jab at freshman Democratic Socialist Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, he described one of his past professions as “bartender.” So if you haven’t met an urban Republican with a sense of humor, there’s Joe Borelli.
In the Queens District Attorney race, outgoing Borough President Melinda Katz narrowly defeated leftist firebrand Tiffany Cabán earlier this year in a primary that involved a high-stakes court battle. She is now managing a careful balancing act in attracting unaffiliated moderate voters and satisfying the progressive base of her party that seeks to reform the office.
She will be facing former cop Joseph Murray who is running as a Republican. As he sees it, Katz is still too progressive with her support for closing the Rikers Island jail, ending cash bail, and cooperating with federal agencies. Although Murray is a registered Democrat, he supports cooperating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in handing over individuals selected for deportation based on criminal activities. Prior to the summer primary, Murray supported former judge Greg Lasak, a favorite among many cops who sought a tough-on-crime DA for the borough.
Our Nassau County readers have a competitive election of their own for county legislator seats; county district attorney; Town of Hempstead Supervisor, which pits Democratic incumbent Laura Curran and Republican challenger Don Clavin; Town Council seats for the second, third, and fifth districts; county legislator seats; and, likewise, for the Town Executive of North Hempstead, with its respective town council seats. Many of the Republicans running also appear on the Conservative line, and a new party line named Tax Revolt for voters fed up with their seemingly high property taxes.
Keep in mind that there is a crowded nonpartisan special election for Queens Borough President in February. Details to come!
By Sergey Kadinsky