A Guide to Tuesday’s Local Election

This Nov 5, polling doors will open to the New York City electorate for this year’s general elections. Here is a guide to what will be on the ballot.

Public Advocate

Despite being a non-voting member of City Council, the Public Advocate can still propose and support legislation. Other responsibilities include overseeing some city agencies, serving as an advocate for citizens, and upholding the role of chair on the Commission of Public Information and Communication. The Public Advocate is also first in line to take over the mayoral position. 

The three candidates vying for this position are incumbent Jumaane Williams, as well as challengers Joseph Borelli and Devin Balkind. 

Williams, a Democrat and Brooklyn native, represented the 45th District on the City Council until he was elected PA during a special election this past May. Williams’ main goals as Public Advocate focus on policing reform in communities of color, increasing affordable housing in the city, legalizing marijuana and making the city more eco-progressive, according to his campaign website. Williams also advocates publicly about gun violence prevention and education. 

One of Williams’ contenders, Joseph Borelli, is the Minority Whip and Representative of the 51st district for NYC City Council. The Staten Islander and Republican politician also served on the New York State Assembly from 2013 until his election to the Council. Borelli is an adjunct professor at CUNY College of Staten Island, has had various pieces published in media outlets like the Gotham Gazette and the New York Daily News, and has appeared as a political commentator on many news networks, including Fox News. His main political goals, according to his website, are to reduce taxes; improve parks, playgrounds and schools; acquire better mental health resources for New Yorkers; support law enforcement and fight the opioid addiction crisis in New York. 

Also running for PA is Devin Balkind, a Libertarian and nonprofit executive with a simple message: “Politicians talk enough. Let’s build.” Balkind wants to make New York local government more open and accessible. If elected, he plans to collaborate with the Commission on Public Information and Communication to create an app with information about projects and social services in the city. Balkind also wants to increase equitable housing options in New York, protect immigrants living in the city from deportation and criminalization, and in reference to the decriminalization of the city, claims that he will  “maintain a list of ‘crimes’ that our city’s politicians should consider repealing so the police don’t have to be the ones making a decision about whether or not to punish someone for a victimless crime,” according to his website

In addition to Public Advocate, Queens residents will also be able to vote for a District Attorney. 

Five Ballot Questions

There will also be five proposals on the backs of New Yorkers’ ballots this Tuesday that could change the New York City Charter.

Prop 1 is about ranked-choice voting. If it passes, voters will get a choice to rank up to five candidates on their ballot in primary and special elections for Mayor, Public Advocate, Comptroller, Borough President and City Council. In the ranked-choice voting system, voters rank the candidates numerically on the ballot. If there is an outright majority of first-choice votes towards one candidate, that candidate wins. But, if there are no candidates with a numerical majority, an elimination process begins. The candidate with the fewest first-choice votes gets eliminated, and all of the ballots which had them as their first choice now have their second choice counted as their first. The votes are recounted again, and this process of elimination continues until a candidate wins a majority of first-choice votes. 

Other proposals in Proposition 1 include the change of special elections, which would be held 80 days (60 for mayor) after a vacancy occurs, rather than 45. Prop 1 would also adjust the timeline of drawing City Council district boundaries so candidates can start gathering petition signatures for the next primary election ballot after boundaries are set, and eliminate primary elections for Mayor, Public Advocate and Comptroller.

Prop 2, if passed, would increase the Civilian Complaint Review Board from 13 to 15 members, allow the CCRB the ability to directly appoint its members, investigate statements made by police officers that are the subject of a complaint, and issue subpoenas during investigations of complaints. 

Prop 3 references ethics and governance and the Conflicts of Interest Board. If passed, the proposition would prohibit members of COIB from engaging in local election campaigns, reduce the allowed contributions from a COIB member during an election cycle, and allow both the Public Advocate and the Comptroller to appoint members to the board. 

Prop 4 deals with the city budget. Voting “yes” means supporting the establishment of a “rainy day fund” in the city government to save money for future years or emergencies, setting minimum budgets for the offices of Public Advocate and Borough Presidents, and requiring the Mayor to submit budget proposal modifications to the Council 30 days prior to the Mayor’s enactment.

Prop 5 is about land use in the city. It would require the Department of City Planning to submit a summary of their proposed building project to the Borough President it will be built in, and the City Planning Board 30 days before the application is approved for public review. Click here to find your area’s poll site location and hours for election day. 

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