This year’s upcoming primary elections will determine the vast majority of the City Council. But in 2009, fewer than one in ten registered voters cast ballots in the primary for City Council candidates—only about four percent of all adults living in New York City. The average City Council primary race was decided by fewer than 1,900 votes. The closest was decided by only four.
Over their term, the City Council you choose will budget almost $250 billion, oversee more than 250,000 public employees in over 50 agencies and write countless laws. Its decisions will change education, sanitation, housing, public safety and transportation alternatives.
The last four years have been the best in the city’s history for transportation alternatives, vastly improving the quality of life and commuting experience for millions of New Yorkers: not only Citi Bike and protected bike lanes but also Select Bus Service enhancements and pedestrian refuges. If you elect the right City Council, these gains for biking and walking can be protected and expanded. If you don’t select the right people, you might get the wrong outcomes.
Simply put, the people you choose—or don’t—on September 10th will make decisions that affect you every day for the next four years.
It is easy to become disillusioned with voting. In the storm of campaign slogans and negative ads, it is all-too-easy to forget that our votes matter. But if there was ever an election in which your vote could truly change the outcome, it is this City Council primary. As the Bloomberg era ends, the city’s new leadership, especially the City Council, will guide the city as it faces new challenges.
If the gains of the last four years ever spread to every neighborhood in every borough, it won’t be because the Mayor or the City Council simply chose to spread them. It will be because the voters of New York City demanded it.
The most effective way to take action is to vote on September 10th for candidates that share your priorities and will work to make them a reality.
So, on September 10th, vote. Reach out to your ten best Facebook friends to vote for candidates known to favor transportation alternatives and tweet the same. It only takes a few voters who think like you to make the difference in City Council races all over the city. And it’s the single most important step you can take towards safer streets and a more sustainable city.
Robert Green is a Principal at Penn Schoen, the research-based consulting firm based in New York and Washington. Mr. Green has polled for Transportation Alternatives, as well as on a wide variety of city, state and national issues. Joe Ste.Marie is an analyst at the firm.