David R. Jones (137830)
David R. Jones Credit: Contributed

Every voter must cast a ballot in this month’s New York City primary election, the most significant slate of races in recent memory. It is the most important thing you can do to help our city.

Our future is on the ballot. We face extraordinary challenges in housing and job opportunities, public schools and healthcare, policing and racial equity – all at the same time. It is not hyperbole to say our system of democracy – one person, one vote – is under attack. Believe it, and make your voice heard.

This is our chance to vote our essential interests for a more inclusive, prosperous New York City. We can have a voice in choosing the leaders who will guide New York City past the personal loss, poverty and trauma of the Covid-19 pandemic that over the past 18 months wreaked an emotional and economic toll on the city.

Every citywide office is on the ballot, including Democratic and Republican primaries for mayor and high-voltage races here for borough president and City Council. There are more than 500 candidates running now. The winners of the June 22 primary face off in the November 2nd general election.

The last city election this big was 20 years ago on September 11th, 2001, when the mayoral primary was halted mid-vote after terrorist attacks on World Trade Center. There were 300 candidates on the ballot then.

Enclosed in today’s paper, and posted on the Amsterdam News website, is an excerpt of the Community Service Society’s 2021 Voter Guide. It presents the mayoral candidates’ positions on housing, healthcare, criminal justice, economic equity and other issues to help voters make informed choices.

An alarming number of households are struggling to put food on the table and make their rent payments. The coronavirus pandemic exacerbated – and potentially makes permanent for the foreseeable future – inequities. We need programs that focus on Blacks, Latinx, hourly workers and people without college degrees.

Through the voter guide, we offered mayoral candidates an opportunity to respond to important questions: How would they re-align both the city’s affordable housing programs and its land use policies to promote deeper levels of affordability at a larger scale? What types of programs or policies would they champion to maximize enrollment of immigrants in quality health insurance coverage that they can afford?

Covid decimated the hospitality industry. How will they ensure that these workers can transition back to full-time employment? And what would they do to hold police officers accountable for misconduct, and how would they reform the New York Police Department to minimize misconduct, if not eliminate it?

The city also faces other dire challenges, such as restoring trust in the New York City Department of Education after the coronavirus closings, festering demands for racial justice, food security, and jobs and training for the legions of unemployed.

The next mayor must make important budget choices. Buoyed by an infusion of federal relief funds, Mayor Bill de Blasio plans to direct sizable allocations to education, small businesses, public health, and tourism – while also increasing the money set aside in the city’s rainy day and reserve accounts.

The debate over NYC’s immediate future has turned up the heat in the mayoral campaign, with at least five prominent Black, Latinx and Asian candidates — including two who are women — vying to follow in David Dinkins’ historic footsteps, and many other racial and ethnic minorities on the ballot for City Council.

Take the time to prepare before casting your ballots. With ranked choice voting, we have more say in the outcome of the election than in years past. But we all must come to the task organized and informed. Instead of choosing just one, we have the option to rank up to five candidates for ever office on the ballot in order of preference.

Ranked-choice voting works like this: Instead of just picking one of the candidates on the ballot, you rank up to five candidates in order of preference for mayor, comptroller, public advocate, borough president and members of the City Council.

If no candidate gets a majority of the vote, the last-place candidate is eliminated and their votes are parceled out to the voter’s second choice, a computerized process that continues until one candidate has a majority and is declared the winner.

Supporters say ranked voting discourages negative campaigning, forces candidates to reach out to voters beyond their narrow base, and allows voters to pick their true favorite without worrying about voting for someone who cannot win. We will learn how it all shakes out on June 22. Until then, do your part and get out and vote!

David R. Jones, Esq., is President and CEO of the Community Service Society of New York (CSS), the leading voice on behalf of low-income New Yorkers for more than 170 years. The views expressed in this column are solely those of the writer. The Urban Agenda is available on CSS’s website: www.cssny.org.