View Full Version : Voters Reject Proposal for Non-partisan Elections

November 6th, 2003, 01:28 AM


November 5, 2003 -- Mayor Bloomberg's personally bankrolled plan for nonpartisan elections went down to resounding defeat last night. With all precincts reporting, an avalanche of no votes crushed the mayor's proposal, 70 percent to 30 percent.

"Actually, it doesn't get any better than this," rejoiced City Council Speaker Gifford Miller, a potential mayoral contender in 2005 who opposed the measure.

Comptroller William Thompson, another possible mayoral hopeful, declared even before the results were in that a defeat would be a "direct repudiation" of Bloomberg.

The mayor spent election night at the campaign of Staten Island DA-elect Dan Donovan, one of only two candidates he endorsed who won.

Bloomberg left without taking questions from waiting reporters. His office later issued a statement stating the obvious, that "the people have spoken."

Opponents had a hard time containing their glee.

Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum said the mayor's personal $2 million spending spree on mailings and automated phone calls - one featuring superstar Rudy Giuliani - backfired.

"People said they didn't like the fact that this guy spent so much [of his own] money," said Gotbaum, recounting conversations with voters at the polls.

Mitchell Moss, an NYU professor who acts as an informal advisor to Bloomberg, insisted the results would have no impact on 2005.

He recalled that Giuliani also got clobbered in his own 1999 referendum battle - and went on to become a national hero.

"It doesn't affect the running of the city," said Moss. "Ninety percent of New Yorkers didn't even care enough to go to the polls. Tomorrow is a new day."

Bloomberg told reporters early in the day that the fate of city government itself was on the line.

"It would be a real victory for corruption if it did not pass," the mayor declared after voting at PS 6 on East 81st Street.

Under the plan, instead of candidates competing in separate party primaries, all contenders would have faced off in a single September contest starting in 2009.

The two top finishers would then have competed in a November general election.

Fewer than 13 percent of registered voters in the city cast ballots yesterday.

Two other government-reform measures backed by the mayor also lost, by 2-to-1 margins.

A statewide referendum on school debt was failing, while one on sewer funding passed. Democratic leaders who vigorously opposed the proposal pointed to the humiliating margin as evidence of Bloomberg's vulnerability.


Good riddance. I've never liked Mike Bloomberg, for too many reasons. He forcibly imposed the smoking ban, which I still oppose. There are reports that he once denounced Giuliani for failing to impose that smoking ban sooner. He proposed a land swap for the city to take control of Ground Zero from the PA (affordable housing anyone?) which luckily was turned down. And now he tried to impose non-partisan elections and spent $millions trying to promote it? The more I read about things like this the more I question Bloomberg's ability to run the city properly.

November 6th, 2003, 09:26 AM
November 6, 2003


The Smart Money Beats Bloomberg's Money


Ever since his come-from-way-behind election victory in 2001, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has taken a special delight in proving what he calls "the smart money" wrong.

He has been known to do so, from time to time. He won control of the city's school system, a goal that eluded several predecessors. Crime continues to drop in post-Giuliani New York, despite the doubters. The mayor negotiated a deal worth hundreds of millions of dollars in back rent for the city's airports that many fiscal experts thought might never come. There was even that $50 bet he placed at the Kentucky Derby this year on a long shot from New York. It won at 12 to 1, winning him $600.

But he proved the smart money right in spectacular fashion on Tuesday when his two-year quest to persuade the overwhelmingly Democratic voters of New York City to ban political primaries in local races and make it optional for candidates to list their parties on the ballot was defeated at the ballot, 70 percent to 30 percent.

Mr. Bloomberg tried to put the best face yesterday on the landslide loss, declaring himself "a winner" for simply putting the issue before the voters, and warning his political opponents not to read its resounding defeat as a sign of his weakness.

"I suppose you're better off losing 70-30 than losing by one vote," the mayor said yesterday. "If it was one vote, you'd always say, `Oh, if I'd made that one more call, I could have carried it.' In this case I thought that we would do better. I actually had hopes that it would pass, because I thought it was the right thing to do. But at this point, the public has spoken. Get over it. Let's get on with making this city better."

The proposal to end party primaries was one of Mr. Bloomberg's first campaign pledges, and he spent at least $2 million of his own money promoting it with mailings and prerecorded phone calls. Its defeat was like chum to many of the city's top Democrats, who are now circling Mr. Bloomberg with thoughts of challenging him in the 2005 election. One, Fernando Ferrer, the former Bronx borough president who ran for mayor unsuccessfully in 1997 and 2001, announced yesterday that he is forming a committee to explore another run for mayor in 2005.

Mr. Bloomberg had pushed the proposal on the grounds that it would have enfranchised the 1.3 million New York City voters who are not enrolled in the Democratic Party, and who therefore do not get to vote in the Democratic primaries that so often prove decisive in local races. But turnout in the off-year election was light, with less than 13 percent of the electorate voting on the measure. In the end, the proposal that was supposed to help more than a million voters drew only around 142,000 "yes" votes.

Some political analysts and privately, some Democrats speculated that the light turnout helped defeat the measure, because only the most devoted voters showed up. Those voters tend to be Democrats, and tend to vote in Democratic primaries.

The light turnout also magnified the importance of the get-out-the-vote operations that were mounted by Democrats, third parties like the Working Families Party, and labor unions. Assemblyman Brian M. McLaughlin, the president of the New York City Central Labor Council, estimated that labor had put 1,500 to 2,000 volunteers on the streets, hanging placards, handing out palm cards and in some cases going door-to-door to urge voters to vote "no."

The defeat of the measure dealt a serious political humiliation to the mayor. But Mr. Bloomberg and his aides portrayed it as just another instance where they aimed high, against the odds, on something that the mayor believes in.

And some political analysts noted that Rudolph W. Giuliani lost a battle or two over proposed changes to the City Charter, without suffering for it politically.

William Cunningham, the mayor's communications director, said that Mr. Bloomberg has long been interested in the idea of nonpartisan elections, and that the subject came up when the men first met to discuss Mr. Bloomberg's possible run for public office.

Mr. Cunningham said they knew all along that they had a tough fight ahead. "We sort of flew into the teeth of a howling wind here, no question about it," he said.

The lopsided loss led to a round of soul-searching and Wednesday-morning quarterbacking in political circles. Some politicians and political analysts said that the biggest mistake was to put the question on the ballot in an off-year election.

Others faulted Mr. Bloomberg for his unilateral approach to trying to change the City Charter, which is like the city's constitution. The mayor failed to build much of a coalition to support his idea. And for political reasons, he had to keep the idea's strongest supporters, the Independence Party, and its founder, Lenora Fulani, at arm's length.

Then, although Mr. Bloomberg put the proposal forward as a good-government reform, the city's major civic groups all opposed it, as did the executive director of the New York City Campaign Finance Board.

Rachel Leon, the executive director of Common Cause New York, said that her group was open to the idea of nonpartisan elections, but that it had been turned off by the way the mayor went about trying to change the charter and the hybrid version of nonpartisan elections which would allow people to list party affiliations that the mayor's Charter Revision Commission ultimately agreed to as a compromise.

"Certainly from the good-government groups' perspective, the process doomed it," she said.

And several Democrats said that this election proved that the mayor's money could be a double-edged sword. Although the nearly $75 million he spent getting elected in 2001 certainly helped him, the more than $2 million that he spent promoting the change in the charter irked some voters. And Democrats seized on it early on as a possible Achilles' heel, trying to shame him into not spending.

Mr. Cunningham said that he had no interest in second-guessing the campaign. "Everybody is Alexander the Great in hindsight," he said.

And the mayor declared victory, even in defeat. "I was a big winner yesterday," he said. "I fulfilled a campaign promise of bringing before the voters something that is very important to this city."

"I think yesterday, you can chalk it up as a success, for me personally," he said.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

November 6th, 2003, 09:27 AM
November 6, 2003

After the New York Election

New York City residents did the right thing in rejecting Mayor Michael Bloomberg's plan to make local elections nonpartisan. The ballot proposal that would have eliminated party primaries in city elections lost in a landslide. But those who crowed over the margin of victory and the defeat for Mr. Bloomberg curiously missed the larger point. What was true before Tuesday's vote is still true today: the city's electoral system needs a revamping to take power away from political party bosses, lessen corruption and increase voter participation. Mr. Bloomberg and his Charter Revision Commission fell short in defining the means, not the ends.

The mayor is now calling for a continuing effort to reform the system, and we hope he keeps fighting. Real change is possible, but not with another charter commission. The mayor should pressure lawmakers in Albany, who have the power to make it easier for voters to register and easier for grass-roots candidates to get on the ballot. They can end the gerrymandering that makes most elections noncompetitive and reform the appalling system for electing judges.

Voters will respond when given real choices. On Tuesday, for instance, Letitia James, a City Council candidate challenging the machine in Brooklyn, beat Geoffrey Davis, the brother of the slain councilman James Davis and the choice of the Democratic Party. Residents in Suffolk County rejected a powerful Republican organization and elected a Democratic county executive. Staten Island voters ended Democratic control of the district attorney's office.

But most of the local elections in the metropolitan area were walkaways and stirred little excitement even among hard-core voters. The battle over nonpartisan elections was heated because it was driven by the mayor's determination to do something anything to bring about reform. There's a lot that is admirable in that. And while there are many reasons to feel relief that he failed, the preservation of the status quo is not one of them.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

TLOZ Link5
November 6th, 2003, 12:15 PM
Agglom, when you've grown up with a mother who smokes two packs of Marlboros a day, you really appreciate the presence of a public smoking ban. The majority of New Yorkers also support it.

Let's think of this: Chicago, Detroit and Los Angeles, just to name a few, all have nonpartisan municipal elections. NYC politics are still political machine-driven. His other two referendums had to do with curbing corruption, particularly in judges; and streamlining the city spending process. The referendums' outright rejection was a victory for beaurocracy, not democracy.

November 6th, 2003, 01:15 PM
I disagreed with Bloomberg's non-partisan question, only because it's a fundamental change in NYC politics, and should not be decided in an off-year election when voter turnout is so low. However, Bloomberg only did what he promised he would do in campaigning for office.

As for the smoking ban, the same arguments about hurting business were made when the first ban on smoking in the workplace was enacted. Years later, it is a non issue. If the current ban continues, it will also become a non issue.

The WTC-airport land swap was not pressured by the city upon the PA. The PA would have accepted a swap (the airports are a big source of revenue), but no agreement on payment was reached. The PA needed to resolve the issue, not the city. Even though the lease ran until 2015, the PA had difficulty securing long-term financing for airport projects. In the end both sides got what they wanted.

Bloomberg never said he wanted affordable housing on the WTC site, but in lower Manhattan. Some people lose sight that it's not the World Tade Center Development Corporation.

Only time will tell whether or not Bloomberg is running the city properly, but this from another topic is a step in the right direction:

Higher property and sales taxes, along with increased real estate values, combined with tightfisted budgeting to help New York City end its fiscal year in June in the black, according to a report issued by the city comptroller yesterday.

The annual report on the state of the city's finances has few revelations, but it confirms recent indications that the economic clouds are lifting and that the city, if not at risk of a sunburn, can at least put away the umbrella.

The comptroller, William C. Thompson Jr., said that in addition to closing a $6 billion gap in last year's $44 billion budget, the city has available more than $1.4 billion to help balance the budget for the year that ends next June. City officials, however, are already projecting a $2 billion shortfall for the fiscal year that starts next July 1.

TLOZ Link5
November 6th, 2003, 02:52 PM
The last time we had a fiscal crisis of this magnitude, how high did crime rise? Compare a homicide rate of about 13.9 in 1970 to about 26.16 in 1980. Nearly double the murder rate.

How many people and businesses left the City forever? Compare a population of 7,895,563 in 1970 to 7,071,639 in 1980. A loss of more than 800,000, or 10.5% of the City's population, in 10 years.

How high did trash pile on the streets?

How low did our reputation and our integrity sink? Even now we haven't fully recovered concerning those last two points; are you aware of how many people are STILL averse to New York because of negative perceptions of it that began in the '70s?

Bloomberg has kept the City afloat, even though he had to make unpopular decisions. I'd prefer a minimal decline in quality of life that people are bitching about now than go back to the New York people saw in 1977, when the Bronx burned down and Bed-Stuy was looted a la the Ottoman Turks in Constantinople.

November 6th, 2003, 02:55 PM
I, for one, don't think the smoking ban will be a "non-issue". Especially this coming winter. Personally, I won't frequent bars that don't allow smoking. I'd rather stay home with good friends and a bottle of wine than sit in smoke-free bar.

November 6th, 2003, 03:08 PM
Then wine merchants should do well.

November 6th, 2003, 03:49 PM
I used to go out 60% more in the city than I do now due to the smoking ban. I find myself staying home more and going to Hoboken more often. Typically when I go out along with my peers, we spend a good deal of money... no longer. This ban is having an impact, everyone I know in the service industry in the city says this as well.

I understand your point TLOZ Link5, and I'm sorry to hear about your Mother's difficulties. I am however a middle-aged man that understands and am responsible for the choices I make. I do not appreciate the government suddenly deciding for me what I can and cannot do. Especially when it is something that I have been allowed to do most of my life.
This issue was not on a ballet, and it was not part of the Mayors campaign when he was seeking election.

TLOZ Link5
November 6th, 2003, 04:45 PM
Ah Zoe. My mom doesn't have difficulties per se; it's just difficult to breathe around her when she's lighting up.

November 6th, 2003, 05:11 PM
There were a few nonsmoking bars before the ban. Why not offer tax incentives for bars to be smoke-free and then let the owners make a decision? Everyone wins but Bloomberg.

November 7th, 2003, 10:53 AM
Well, I am a non-smoker and am still not 100% about sucha restictive ban. Not sure why Bloomie is so into it, either.

BUT, you people simply are punishing the bars and restaurants for something they can't control and that's BS. Also, the person going to Hoboken more, that's a disgrace - maybe you should move there.

November 7th, 2003, 12:55 PM
I go to Hoboken more, as well.

Protesting with your dollar is really the only way to fight this ban. It's not fair to accuse smokers of "punishing" bars when Bloomberg is the only person punishing anyone.

November 7th, 2003, 03:00 PM
You wouldn't happen to be a one-issue voter, would you?

November 7th, 2003, 03:01 PM
NY State Monthly Tax Collections (http://www.tax.state.ny.us/collections/monthly_tax_collections.htm)

There is separate data for NYC alcohic beverage tax collections. Comparing monthly amounts for 2003 against 2002, there was a sharp decline in revenue in March 2003, -26%. April had an increase of 2%, followed by a 10% decrease in May. June thru Sept had amounts in line with 2002. Aug and Sept were both higher than 2002.

For the first six months of fiscal 2003 (April-Sept), the total decrease in revenue was $29,000, or 0.25%

Are the March results attributed to public anger? I think that's reasonable. The overall data shows a gradual acceptance. Humans are the most adaptable species on earth.

November 7th, 2003, 03:31 PM
I know when I quit smoking, whenever I went out to bars I always ended up completely pissed until I realized the nervous hand-to-mouth habit of smoking transferred to... you guessed it, the drink.

I predict a massive spike in alcohol sales during the winter, when smokers will knock back drink after drink rather than freeze. This could already be happening. The smokers who go out are drinking extra to make up for the smokers who stay home.

November 12th, 2003, 07:17 PM
Sorry, Christian. I'm a straight-up Democrat, unless I have the opportunity to vote Working Families.