NYC local elections roundup

15 Sep

Tomorrow is the primary election for New York City offices: mayor, city council, comptroller, public advocate, district attorney and probably a few other offices. The city is completely ignored in national elections; in fact, it is kicked to the curb by a lot of rural politicians, but I won't get into that.

The general election is in November, as per convention. However with the exception of the mayoral race, there is no realistic chance of Republicans or Independents winning anything except on Staten Island — the current composition of the 51-seat council is 48 Dems, 5 others (3 GOP, 1 Working Families, 1 independent). Thus, the Democratic primary is effectively the real election for most of the offices.

Even though term limits for city councillors have been extended by an extra term, there are a lot of open and fairly contentious council seats, in addition to the citywide offices. Since I know you're dying to know, here is who I'm voting for and why.
Mayor: Mike Bloomberg (but, no one in the Dem primary; I plan to leave it blank)

This is going to be the first “Republican” vote I cast in my life. Actually, since you can vote for candidates on one of several party lines, I'll probably vote for Bloomberg on the independent line in the general. That being said, though, I really dislike both of the Dems who are up for mayor: Bill Thompson and Tony Avella. In the Democratic candidates debate, both of them vowed to dump urban planning all-star Janette Sadik-Khan as DOT commissioner. That alone was enough to sour me to both of them, although as a bonus Tony Avella has proposed some absurd things like requiring all city business to post signs in English (nice one; and he's from Queens, too, where 40% of the population is foreign-born, although I have to imagine he's from the tree-lined suburb part of Queens). Bill Thompson, who was comptroller under Bloomberg, just opposes everything Bloomberg is for, categorically. Always a formula for success!

I have mixed feelings about Bloomberg. I thought extending term limits for himself was a disingenuous stunt. However, I've been enthusiastically in favor of some of his proposals, especially congestion pricing. I also like his underlying attitude that the New York State government generally hurts NYC more than it helps us, so whatever his shortcomings, and his animosity for erstwhile Observer reporters, I don't think we have a better candidate in the race.

Comptroller: David Yassky

I like David Yassky for several reasons. He's a council member from Brooklyn Heights (not far from here), so I think he represents the political faction I belong to quite well. On my top issue, which is transportation and progressive urban planning, he's been a solid and reliable advocate. He shepherded the flawed by still better-than-nothing bike access bill through the council.

Granted, comptroller has relatively less to do with those issues than the council, but it's still relevant. He's also in favor of using technology to promote government transparency, which is not a partisan issue but something I think many politicians neglect just because they don't want to be bothered or don't think their constituents care to know.

Public Advocate: Norman Siegel

I had a hard time with this one. I do like Bill de Blasio, the outgoing city council member from my district. My main problem with him is that he did not support Mayor Bloomberg's congestion pricing plan, or the subsequent and fairly watered down East River bridge tolling plan.

Siegel, on the other hard, is a die-hard bike advocate and in favor of innovate parking policies that would charge more like the real cost of the space (instead of heavily subsidizing street parking). It really comes down to that.

The other major candidate in this race is Eric Gioia, who is kind of a loser. His major claim to fame was convincing Costco to accept food stamps. Way to go Eric. Encouraging poor people to shop at big box stores makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

39th Council District: Brad Lander

For me, this came down to a choice between Brad and Josh Skaller, both Park Slopers who are pretty much there on most of my issues: anti-Atlantic Yards, pro-congestion pricing, pro-bike, etc. Lander in particular has a background as former director of the Pratt Center and seems to have a more pragmatic approach to local politics. Skaller strikes me as too much of a “general activist” (Wesleyan flashbacks?) to be a successful councillor. There was a dustup about a rogue Lander campaign operative running an ad in a Yiddish rag in Borough Park claiming Lander is anti-gay, but I'm willing to believe it was not his intention.

Incidentally, Carroll Gardens-based John Heyer actually is anti-gay. Given this is literally one of the most liberal places in the country, I don't see why he thinks that's a good idea. And he's 27 too!

Anyway, regardless of who you vote for, go out and vote. Unlike huge national elections, a lot of these might be decided be a mere few hundred votes, so your vote actually is pretty significant.