Angry New Yorker

Friday, October 31, 2003
After careful review and study, here's how I'm voting on the 6 proposals appearing on the ballot on November 4th, and I hoping to convincing you to do likewise. The six ballots cover:

1. Paying for Sewage Systems - "Exclusion of Indebtedness Contracted for Sewage Facilities"
2. Paying for Schools in Small Cities - "Elimination of Small City School Districts from Constitutional Debt Limitations"
3. Non-Partisan Elections - "A Question - City Elections"
4. City Purchasing - "A Question - City Purchasing"
5. Government Administration - "A Question - Government Administration"
6. Class Size - "Class Size"

Details on the actual text and all six proposals are available at:

And my take:

#1 - 1. Paying for Sewage Systems - Ballot text: "Exclusion of Indebtedness Contracted for Sewage Facilities"
YES. Although I'm always loathe to allow municipal governments to take on any additional debt, doing so for capital projects like sewers and such is different than borrowing to pay ongoing expenditures -- a dangerous practice the state and city are currently engaged in.

# 2. Paying for Schools in Small Cities - Ballot text: "Elimination of Small City School Districts from Constitutional Debt Limitations"
NO. The NYS teachers' union supports this measure and inevitably what ever the teachers' union is for, I'm against. Knee-jerking aside, this amendment would lead us down the road to California's mess by constitutionalizing spending with no linkage to providing for the funds. Additionally, given that the NYS legislature is in the midst of providing a funding scheme to address the recent Court of Appeals decision, this proposal simply complicates the situation.

# 3. Non-Partisan Elections - Ballot text: "A Question - City Elections"
NO. Mayor Bloomberg and others support this measure arguing that the two political parties control candidates, which in NYC means that democrats often run unopposed and so the party's selection pre-picks the winning candidate. They argue this leads to low voter turnout and disenfranchisement. In the abstract these arguments wear a patina of reasonableness, but upon examination do not stand. Other parties, particularly the Republicans, have made strides against the democratic voting bloc in NYC, and what truly controls city politics and candidates these days are various unions and political groups -- not parties. The proposal's supporters argue many other cities have non-partisan elections for local government, but again, a study of how NYC's politics work (or more often don't work) reveals those cities are much less controlled by vested government interests and union voting. I'm voting NO.

#4. City Purchasing - Ballot text: "A Question - City Purchasing"
YES. The city's purchasing practices have been problematic for ages. And while this issue should ideally have been addressed by the city council (which often seems more interested in passing resolutions regarding U.S. foreign policy than actually governing NYC reasonably) and the mayor, slicing the Gordian knot at this stage seems efficacious.

# 5. Government Administration - Ballot text: "A Question - Government Administration"
NO. Again, the text of this proposal sounds benign, but would overly politicize the voters assistance commission in my opinion and the preliminary mayor's management report -- which a yes on this proposal would end -- is a useful tool that isn't overly costly to produce.

#6. Class Size - Ballot text: "Class Size"
NO. While arguing "won't someone think of the children?" appears to make this a no-brainer in favor of voting YES (after all who is in favor of large class sizes?) this proposal is misguided and, again, the NYS legislature is currently working on a state-wide plan to address school system funding inequities with a July 2004 deadline set by the NYS Court of Appeals. This measure's passing would, again, complicate that.
But more fundamentally, class size ALONE is not the measure of educational success. It is one factor, but a charter modification via a ballot proposal like this is not the method to use, and this method makes no provision for how to then pay for smaller class sizes, nor where the additional teachers would come from in a city already chronically short of high-quality teachers. I urge a strong NO vote.

And that's it. Remember to vote on November 4th because you only get the government you vote for.

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