Keeping Up the Heat for Nonpartisan Elections in New York City
I went downtown yesterday after work to a place called “Surrogate’s Courthouse” at 31 Chambers Street for a meeting of the NYC Charter Revision Commission that was open to the public but not hearing testimony — that starts next Monday. The task last night for the Commission was to discuss the newly released preliminary report that was issued by the Commission’s staff last Thursday after weeks of public hearings.
Surrogate’s Courthouse is a very wonderful and stately building directly across the street from and just north of City Hall, a Hallowell, Maine, granite, seven-story, steel-framed structure built at the turn of 20th Century by John R. Thomas. The staircases are beautiful, and there is a fireplace mantel in room 209 that should be the envy of every New Yorker… As a fan of the Beaux Arts architecture of that period, particularly in NYC, it was a treat to be there. Well, sort of!
It’s been really hot in NYC lately — as is true for the entire East Coast and points north, south east and west…. In Surrogate’s Courthouse the temperature last night was about 110 degrees in the shade. Many of us — at least 100 in the audience — used relevant portions of the preliminary report to fan ourselves, while trying not to exert too many calories that would then just make us all sweat even more. I considered, toward the end of the 2-hour meeting, a possibly not so dissimilar gathering of our founding fathers in their wool suits and all that pomp and whatever trying to make heads or tails of their current predicament with their British overseers and how the H the people were supposed to live under those conditions….
But to the present predicament:
Term Limits was the issue of priority. There was discussion and input by almost every member of the commission about term limits during the first hour, waxing from historic to poetic to mundane. Term Limits became a BIG issue in NYC last year when Mayor Bloomberg decided to run for a third term and bypass a referendum voted on twice by the people of New York City limiting the mayoral office to 2 terms. Nobody but nobody liked it – except the (Democratic Party) City Council members who wanted to keep their jobs and who passed the resolution that allowed the Mayor to run for a third term.
So anyway, the discussion ensues and after another spirited discussion about Instant Runoff Voting, Commissioner Carlo Scissura took issue with the preliminary report itself, which relegated nonpartisan elections to a “minor” issue under “other” in the report. Commission Executive Director Lorna B. Goodman said that none of the commissioners had expressed any interest in nonpartisan elections, but many had expressed a lot of interest in IRV.
The Commission will hear from Citizens Union on Monday July 19 about why they changed their position on nonpartisans. Citizens Union now backs the reform.
Earlier yesterday, Independence Party attorney Harry Kresky was quoted in City Limits magazine:
The Independence Party brought hundreds of supporters to the commission’s hearings to push for nonpartisan elections, which failed in a 2003 charter vote. But Harry Kresky, a party lawyer, says the omission of nonpartisan voting from the list of recommendations is not discouraging. “This is a very engaged issue and people’s minds are changing and it’s an ongoing process. The report itself says that in the coming weeks the staff will be reviewing it. I think they’re still looking at it,” he says. “The Independence Party is in this for the long term. These kinds of changes don’t come instantly.”
The NYC Independence Party made nonpartisan elections a campaign issue in 2001 as a condition of support for Bloomberg’s first run for mayor, which became his margin of victory. Nonpartisans is one of a number of structural reforms being supported by independent democratic forces in New York and nationally.
And, oh yes — be sure to pop over to Crain’s New York for the poll “Should NYC adopt non-partisan voting?” – Polls | Crain’s New York Business It’s running at 72% in favor!
Read more news for independents at The Hankster