2003-10-31 / Columnists

Chatting with Chapey

by Dr. Geraldine M. Chapey, Democratic District Leader
Chatting with Chapey

Dr. Geraldine ChapeyDr. Geraldine Chapey

by Dr. Geraldine M. Chapey, Democratic District Leader

On Tuesday, November 4, please go to the polls and vote NO on the Charter Revision proposal to change the election proce ss in New York City to non-partisan elections.  This proposal was originated by Mayor Bloomberg and the super wealthy Ronald Lauder.

The primary reason to vote against this proposition is that it is an attempt to blind-fold the public when they go to vote.  The proposal as it is written on the ballot would have all candidates running for office in New York City appear on the ballot without a party designation or party label.  Candidates would run in a preliminary election in September and the top two winners of this election would then proceed to run against each other in the November election.  This would probably result in two people from the same political party facing off against each other in the November election.  It would eliminate our right to have people from different parties appear on the November ballot.  Essentially it would be a death knell to the two party system as we know it.  One of the main characteristics that distinguishes our U. S. democratic form of government is that we have a strong two party system.

In the 32nd Councilmanic District we have had City Council elections that have resulted in victories for both Republicans and Democrats. Councilman Walter Ward was a democrat.  He was followed by Councilman Al Stabile - a Republican. We now have Councilman Joseph Addabbo who is a democrat. Each of these individuals has put their special talents and political philosophy to work for the people of our district.  The party system has served us well.

In New York City, the democratic enrollment is 5 to 1 over the Republicans.  However, the last two Mayors have been elected on the Republican line - Rudolph Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg. This shows that the voters are paying attention.  They listen to the issues as they are debated and make choices as to which candidate they feel would best represent their interests at that particular time.

City Council Speaker Gifford Miller stated "I don’t understand what problem we are trying to solve here. We have competitive elections over the past 30 years. We have had just as many Republican candidates as we have had Democratic candidates. The current process gives people choices and that’s what we are supposed to do in elections. Non-partisan elections are a cure in search of a problem".

Non partisan elections if voted in would result in a major change in the City Charter on par with the passage of term limits, the abolishment of the Board of Estimate and the legalizing of publicly funded campaigns. However, each of these so called "cures" has resulted in creating other problems.

The Board of Estimate was abolished by the federal court ruling in the 1980’s which challenged the legality of boroughs as a separate entity because they violated the one man - one vote rule. Since some boroughs had larger populations than others, it resulted in Staten Islanders having a proportionately greater say. The jurisdiction was therefore shifted from the Board of Estimate to the City Council where one could argue that certain districts have greater influence because of the leadership position in the council held by their elected council person.

The term limits proposal was funded by Lauder and theoretically was meant to curb the power of long term incumbents. However, some council members merely seized this as an opportunity to elect a son or daughter.

Public campaign financing sounded like an opportunity to let every citizen run regardless of their ability to attract major donors. However, Michael Bloomberg chose not to participate in this and he spent about $70 million of his own money on his campaign. The public campaign finance law did not level the playing field.

Does this proposal of non partisan elections really open up the election process? Probably not, because individuals would still need to comply with the ballot access provisions of the New York State election law. 

A recent case in California during the gubernatorial campaign allowed over 100 candidates to run for the same office. In this election party labels were applied but the open access process did not appear to make the election more democratic. It did, however, give lots of ammunition to David Letterman, Jay Leno and all the late night show hosts and comedians in the country.

Assemblyman Herman D. Farrell, Jr. is the chairman of the New York State Democratic committee, the Manhattan County leader and a member of the National Democratic Committee.  Assemblyman Farrell has been meeting with groups around the state to inform the public about the issue of non-partisan elections.  Assemblyman Farrell believes that this is the time to stand up and fight for democracy.

The passage of the non-partisan election provision would open New Yorkers up to the vagaries of unintended consequences - just as we were with the Board of Estimate, term limits and the public financing proposals.  There is no proof that this would entice more voters to the polls.  There are too many unknowns in this.

Vote NO on Ballot Question three.

Vote NO on non-partisan elections.

Please go to the polls on Election Day and vote. Vote for the following: Richard Brown for DA; Joseph Addabbo for City Council in the 32 C.D., James Sanders in the 31 C.D.; Michael Aloise, David Elliott, Phyllis Orlikoff Flug, Robert Hanophy, Gregory Lasak, Leslie Leach for Justices of the Supreme Court and Ira Margulis, Judge of the Civil Court.

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