On Election Day 2019, NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams was reelected, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz was elected Queen District Attorney, and five pressing ballot questions were decided. And guess what, New Yorkers: We're getting ranked-choice voting for city offices in 2021.
Williams, a Democrat, defeated Republican City Councilmember Joe Borelli of Staten Island, who basically ran on a de Blasio protest campaign, with nearly 77 percent of the vote to Borelli's 20 percent (with 78 percent of precincts reporting at time of publication); Devin Balkind, the Libertarian candidate, received 2.2 precent.
If this feels like deja vu, it is: Williams was elected to office after winning a much livelier special election in February. It should be an interesting two years as he may be more and more emboldened to question lame duck Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Katz defeated Democrat-running-on-the-Republican-line Joe Murray to be Queens' top prosecutor, with 73.89 percent of ballots cast in Queens to Murray's 25.01 percent (with 83.6 percent of precincts reporting). Over the summer, Katz eked out a hard-fought victory in the Democratic primary against progressive public defender Tiffany Cabån that went to a recount. (Caban is now working to help recruit candidates for the national Working Families Party.)
The biggest unknowns were how five ballot questions—which each had a number of proposals bundled in them and will change the city charter—fared. Here's what voters decided, with at least 70 percent of the vote and 80 percent of precincts reporting:
- YES on Question 1: Elections, namely bringing ranked-choice voting to primary and special elections for Mayor, Public Advocate, Comptroller, Borough President, and City Council; and extending the amount of time between vacancy of office and the special election.
- YES on Question 2: Civilian Complaint Review Board, including reforms like increasing the number of members from 13 to 15 and giving the City Council and Public Advocate more say in the appointments; setting a minimum headcount budget that's at least 0.65 percent of the NYPD's budget for police officer headcount; more transparency from the Police Commissioner when he/she makes decisions about police discipline; and more power for the CCRB executive director to issue subpoenas and to investigate false statements given by officers during probes.
- YES on Question 3: Ethics and Government, such as lobbying reform; creating a mayoral office for the director of the Minority and Women Owned Small Business Enterprise program; having the City Council approve the mayor's appointment for Corporation Counsel; preventing Conflicts of Interest Board employees from participating in local political campaigns; and giving the Public Advocate and Comptroller one appointment each to the COIB.
- YES on Question 4: City Budget, which will create a "rainy day fund" for NYC; set minimum budgets for the Public Advocate and Borough Presidents; require the Mayor to provide non-property tax revenue estimate in April (versus June); and require the Mayor to submit a revised budget modification to the Council within 30 days of making changes to the financial plan.
- YES on Question 5: Land Use, which will give more information and time to Borough Presidents and Community Boards when they review development projects under Uniform Land Use Review Procedure.
On a final note, this was, as Politico called it, "the "quietest part of New York’s four-year election cycle," which is probably why the Board of Elections rolled out early voting and the brand new electronic tablets that replaced the old ledgers. These moves were in anticipation of the 2020 primary—now April 28th—and the general election next November.
Also, of interest: Over in Jersey City, voters were largely in favor of a referendum that regulates and limits short term rentals, dealing a blow to Airbnb which spent millions in an attempt to stop it.