Tip O’Neill, former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, famously said, “All politics is local.” After a long, brutal and in some ways life-changing presidential election, maybe it is time to focus back on New York City politics and the leaders who affect our daily lives.
It won’t be long before New Yorkers are back in the voting booths Nov. 7, 2017, to vote for the mayor, public advocate, comptroller, borough presidents and City Council members. With more than 8.5 million residents and a budget of over $82 billion, we might want to pay attention to our elected leaders, how they choose to represent their constituencies and how they spend billions of dollars each year.
Some people are just so overwhelmed by politics and the political processes, and I understand. For some, there seem to be invisible barriers to entry and participation. Beyond writing letters, how does one really get involved? Well, there are several ways. Each neighborhood in New York City has a Community Board, where local level ideas and issues are discussed. By attending a Community Board meeting, one may quickly find out about new businesses coming to the neighborhood, crime statistics and local leaders and activists who are working on myriad issues.
In addition, almost all elected officials have a functioning office in their district that is staffed by individuals who are employed for the sole purpose of helping residents resolve their problems, both minor and major. For example, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer has an office on 125th Street, where residents can drop in and ask questions, pick up pamphlets and be directed to whatever they may need. The offices are there to be a resource and/or to point constituents in the direction of further resources. Even if you did not vote for your elected official, or did not vote at all, you still have the right to utilize this elected official for your needs.
I know it may seem like the 2017 election season is far off, especially because the 2016 presidential season lasted well over 16 months. However, it is imperative we begin to research candidates of interest. And as always, the more one learns about the political system, the needs of so many New Yorkers and the possibilities to help individuals throughout the city, the more one may be inspired to consider running for political office. It does take money, but with New York City’s 6-to-1 campaign matching funding program, it is not an impossible feat.
So allow yourself a brief break from the 2016 presidential election and get ready to participate in NYC’s 2017 local elections. They are just as important.
Christina Greer, Ph. D., is an associate professor at Fordham University and the author of “Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream.” You can find her on Twitter @Dr_CMGreer.