I don’t know anyone who does not at one time or another bemoan our politicians and/or political system, and I’ve found this to be especially true among my fellow New Yorkers. So I find it a bit difficult to wrap my mind around yesterday’s voter turnout in the truly competitive races this election year: fewer than 700,000 Democrats, and fewer than 60,000 Republicans cast votes for their party’s mayoral candidates.
Broadly speaking, that means that around 9% of New York City’s population made final decisions on their City Council representatives in dozens of districts, chose the Democratic candidate who may likely be the City’s next mayor, and a handful of other critical positions as well. We can talk all we want about special interests, disappointing candidates, or broken voting machines that are a half century old–but ultimately I think our political problems come down to one simple factor: we don’t show up when it counts.
We have a lot at stake here: our city has an economy larger than the economies of most countries, we have pressing issues that affect employment, housing, opportunity, and quality of life for more than eight million people, and the continued growth and health of our city is the linchpin of the American (and global) economy. Yet less than 9% of our population shows up to decide how our city will be governed. Is this really the best we can do, NYC?
Here’s the race that maybe most disappointed me. After years of service on his community board and making tangible, good-for-everybody improvements in his district, Mel Wymore ran a hell of a race, kept it positive, and garnered a broad span of endorsements, to include the New York Times. He’s a razor-smart, experienced engineer, an activist, a father, and maybe one of the genuinely nicest people I’ve ever seen running for office. In a race split between 7 different Democratic candidates, Wymore lost by about 1,300 votes. While that’s no Florida 2000 recount crisis, this was the final decision on a City Council seat that was determined by a margin of less than one percent of the district’s total population.
In my own district in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, a guy who ran a ludicrously negative campaign and who, if you showed up to the debates, you discovered has never once voted in a primary election in his 15 years of living in NYC (he called it “regrettable”). There were no profound policy differences between Stephen Levin, an incumbent with a solid record of proactivity and accomplishments, and his own; he simply went negative with untrue/grasping-at-straws allegations because he wanted to win for some unknown reason. I wanted to give the guy a fair hearing, but the more I looked and listened, the weirder it seemed to get. Who bought the lies? 29% of my district’s voters.
The next district over from me voted in a race where Vito Lopez, who stepped down earlier this year in disgrace from his position as NY State Assemblyman, lost by a mere 1,400 votes. These were just a few of the races I was following, and I’m sure there are plenty of other baffling occurrences as well.
I won’t belabor the mayoral race (by far the most disappointing to me) except to say that the leading candidates did indeed pick up on a few, if not more, of the policy points on NYC veterans recommended by NY MetroVets. So well done, Joe Bello, on making substantive change in the most important municipal election in the nation.
If for some reason you aren’t yet registered to vote in NYC, CLICK HERE and get it done. Please.
If you care about how your tax dollars are spent, how much you pay in taxes, how much you pay to live, the level of crime you’re willing to live with, or any other host of issues that voting in your district has a direct impact on–then pay attention to what’s going on and vote. Otherwise your opinions are just a bunch of talk.
And someone please get Mel Wymore elected to something important. We need to put that guy to work for us.