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Citizens Union Endorsed Candidates – 2019 General Election

New York City Public Advocate 

Jumaane Williams (D)

Queens District Attorney 

Melinda Katz (D)


TABLE OF CONTENTS

I. Purpose

II. Candidate Evaluation Principles and Process

III. Our Criteria

IV. Races

V. Ballot Proposals

VI. Voting and Registration Information

 

PURPOSE

Starting from Saturday, October 26th, New Yorkers will vote in the General Election for New York City Public Advocate, Queens District Attorney, New York City Council District 45, and various judicial positions.

For the first time in history, New Yorkers will have an additional option to cast their vote. From Saturday, October 26th through Sunday, November 3rd, select sites across the five boroughs will offer EARLY VOTING in advance of Election Day on November 5th. Your Early Voting polling location is not necessarily the same as your Election Day poll site. Find your Early Voting poll site and hours of operation at https://nyc.pollsitelocator.com.

To help our supportive Citizens Union members prepare to vote in the upcoming election, we bring you our 2019 General Election Voters Directory. The Voters Directory provides a description of each candidate evaluated by Citizens Union’s Local Candidates Committee, their responses to Citizens Union’s good government questionnaire, and information about the rigorous evaluation process and assessments of candidates.

We caution voters that there may be last minute elimination or reinstatement of candidates on the ballot, so the list contained in this directory may have changed since this was first published.

For more information, visit the NYC Board of Elections website at http://vote.nyc.ny.us or call (866) VOTE-NYC.

 

CANDIDATE EVALUATION PRINCIPLES AND PROCESS

In this election cycle, Citizens Union has evaluated 2 of the 3 candidates running for New York City Public Advocate, and both of the candidates running for Queens District Attorney. Interview teams made up of Local Candidates Committee members assess the candidates based on their responses to CU’s questionnaire (a pre-requisite for interviews), research, first-hand knowledge of the candidates, and interviews with the candidates, which are approximately 30 minutes each. The interview teams then make advisory recommendations to the full Local Candidates Committee, which deliberates and makes recommendations to the Citizens Union Board, which makes the final decision.

An “Endorsed” rating reflects a candidate that Citizens Union deems not only qualified for the office with a viable candidacy, but also committed to an agenda of positive reform. Please note that candidates not endorsed may nevertheless be highly regarded, which is generally reflected in the commentary.

Citizens Union issues a “Preferred” rating in primary elections, and an “Endorsed” rating for Special and General Election contests. A “No Preference” rating may result when there is insufficient information available, it is believed that the candidates are of equal merit, or if no candidate interviewed by Citizens Union is believed to be effective or capable of representing the district.

 

OUR CRITERIA

The following guidelines are used by the Local Candidates Committee and Citizens Union Board of Directors in the evaluation of candidates:

  • Support for Citizens Union’s reform agenda shall be the primary criteria used in deciding its support for a candidate.
  • Evidence of ability to wage an effective and competitive campaign shall be considered but shall not be determinative.
  • Ability to advance CU’s goals, if elected, shall be considered, but shall not be determinative. Incumbents will be held accountable for their record of reform in office and shall be judged accordingly on the basis of their demonstrated support for CU’s issues.
  • State, local, or community issues specific to the race’s jurisdiction shall be considered, as will candidates’ ability to grasp these issues and propose thoughtful solutions to represent their constituents’ interests.
  • Evaluation of the candidates and the decision to support a particular candidate shall be made without regard to political party and in a nonpartisan manner.

RACES

New York City Public Advocate

Queens District Attorney

 

BALLOT PROPOSALS

Proposal Number 1, a Question: ELECTIONS

This proposal would amend the City Charter to: Give voters the choice of ranking up to five candidates in primary and special elections for Mayor, Public Advocate, Comptroller, Borough President, and City Council beginning in January 2021. If voters still want to choose just one candidate, they can. A candidate who receives a majority of first-choice votes would win. If there is no majority winner, the last place candidate would be eliminated and any voter who had that candidate as their top choice would have their vote transferred to their next choice. This process would repeat until only two candidates remain, and the candidate with the most votes then would be the winner. This proposal would eliminate the separate run-off primary elections for Mayor, Public Advocate, and Comptroller; Extend the time period between the occurrence of a vacancy in an elected City office and when a special election must be held to fill that vacancy. Special elections would generally be held 80 days after the vacancy occurs, instead of 45 days (for Public Advocate, Comptroller, Borough Presidents, and Council Members) or 60 days (for Mayor); and Adjust the timeline of the process for drawing City Council district boundaries so that it is completed before City Council candidates start gathering petition signatures to appear on the ballot for the next primary elections. This process occurs every ten years. Shall this proposal be adopted?

CITIZENS UNION SUPPORTS THIS PROPOSAL

The proposal would establish Ranked Choice Voting in primary and special elections. Ranked Choice Voting allows voters to rank the candidates in order of preference. If no candidate wins a majority of the vote on the first tally, then the candidate with the least number of votes is eliminated. The votes for that candidate then go to their voters’ next choice. This continues until two candidates remain. Citizens Union has long advocated for Ranked Choice Voting. It will give voters more choices and save taxpayer money by avoiding costly runoff elections. The proposal will also change the timing of special elections and of the redistricting process.

Proposal Number 2, a Question: CIVILIAN COMPLAINT REVIEW BOARD

This proposal would amend the City Charter to: Increase the size of the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) from 13 to 15 members by adding one member appointed by the Public Advocate and adding one member jointly appointed by the Mayor and Speaker of the Council who would serve as chair, and to provide that the Council directly appoint its CCRB members rather than designate them for the Mayor’s consideration and appointment; Require that the CCRB’s annual personnel budget be high enough to fund a CCRB employee headcount equal to 0.65% of the Police Department’s uniformed officer headcount, unless the Mayor makes a written determination that fiscal necessity requires a lower budget amount; Require that the Police Commissioner provide the CCRB with a written explanation when the Police Commissioner intends to depart or has departed from discipline recommended by the CCRB or by the Police Department Deputy (or Assistant Deputy) Commissioner for Trials; Allow the CCRB to investigate the truthfulness of any material statement that is made within the course of the CCRB’s investigation or resolution of a complaint by a police officer who is the subject of that complaint, and recommend discipline against the police officer where appropriate; and Allow the CCRB members, by a majority vote, to delegate the board’s power to issue and seek enforcement of subpoenas to compel the attendance of witnesses and the production of records for its investigations to the CCRB Executive Director. Shall this proposal be adopted?

CITIZENS UNION SUPPORTS THIS PROPOSAL

The proposal would increase oversight of the police department by strengthening the CCRB. Many changes to the CCRB have been recommended by Citizens Union. These include protecting the CCRB budget, requiring the police commissioner explain deviations in discipline from those recommended at a department trial, and allowing the CCRB to investigate potentially false official statements made by an officer under investigation. It would also increase the size of the CCRB and allow it to delegate subpoena power to the Executive Director.

Proposal Number 3, a Question: ETHICS AND GOVERNANCE

This proposal would amend the City Charter to: Prohibit City elected officials and senior appointed officials from appearing before the agency (or, in certain cases, the branch of government) they served in for two years after they leave City service, instead of the current one year. This change would be applicable to persons who leave elected office or City employment after January 1, 2022; Change the membership of the Conflicts of Interest Board (COIB) by replacing two of the members currently appointed by the Mayor with one member appointed by the Comptroller and one member appointed by the Public Advocate; Prohibit members of the COIB from participating in campaigns for local elected office, and reduce the maximum amount of money that members can contribute in each election cycle to the amounts that candidates can receive from those doing business with the City ($400 or less, depending on the office); Require that the citywide director of the Minority- and Women-Owned Business Enterprise (M/WBE) program report directly to the Mayor and require further that such director be supported by a mayoral office of M/WBEs; and Require that the City’s Corporation Counsel, currently appointed by the Mayor, also be approved by the City Council. Shall this proposal be adopted?

CITIZENS UNION OPPOSES THIS PROPOSAL

Unlike the other four questions, this proposal covers items from different sections of the Charter. Citizens Union believes some of these provision are controversial and they are too disparate to be lumped into one question. The various proposals include extending lobbying restrictions on former city employees; requiring the Citywide Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise Director to report directly to the mayor; replacing two appointees to the Conflict of Interest Board (COIB); limiting campaign contributions from COIB board members; and requiring the Corporation Counsel to be approved by the City Council. The structure of the proposed question forces voters to accept some parts they would not want in order to make changes of which they approve.

Proposal Number 4, a Question: CITY BUDGET

This proposal would amend the City Charter to: Allow the City to use a revenue stabilization fund, or “rainy day fund,” to save money for use in future years, such as to address unexpected financial hardships. Changes to State law will also be needed for this rainy day fund to be usable; Set minimum budgets for the Public Advocate and Borough Presidents. The budget for each office would be at least as high as its Fiscal Year 2020 budget adjusted annually by the lesser of the inflation rate or the percentage change in the City’s total expense budget (excluding certain components), unless the Mayor determines that a lower budget is fiscally necessary; Require the Mayor to submit a non-property tax revenue estimate to the City Council by April 26 (instead of June 5). The Mayor may submit an updated estimate after that date, but must explain why the updated estimate was fiscally necessary if the update is submitted after May 25; and Require that, when the Mayor makes changes to the City’s financial plan that would require a budget modification to implement, the proposed budget modification shall be submitted to the Council within 30 days. Shall this proposal be adopted?

CITIZENS UNION SUPPORTS THIS PROPOSAL

The proposal includes two Citizens Union recommendations: minimum budgets for the Public Advocate and Borough Presidents, and earlier submission of revenue estimates by the mayor. It also allows the City to create a rainy-day fund, and requires the Mayor to submit budget modifications to the City Council within 30 days of updating the city’s financial plan.

Proposal Number 5, a Question: LAND USE

This proposal would amend the City Charter to: For projects subject to the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), require the Department of City Planning (DCP) to transmit a detailed project summary to the affected Borough President, Borough Board, and Community Board at least 30 days before the application is certified for public review, and to post that summary on its website; and Provide Community Boards with additional time to review ULURP applications certified for public review by DCP between June 1 and July 15, from the current 60-day review period to 90 days for applications certified in June, and to 75 days for applications certified between July 1 and July 15. Shall this proposal be adopted?

CITIZENS UNION SUPPORTS THIS PROPOSAL

The proposal requires the Department of City Planning to transmit a project summary to the Borough President, Borough Boards and Community Boards at least 30 days before a Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) application is certified. It also provides more time during the summer for community boards to review ULURP applications. Citizens Union supports the proposal, while also wishing the Charter Revision Commission had gone further with its land use reform proposals.

 

VOTING AND REGISTRATION INFORMATION

REGISTERING TO VOTE

You are eligible to vote in municipal, federal and state elections if you are:

  • 18 years of age on the date of the election;
  • United States citizen; AND
  • Registered to vote 25 days before the election.

To vote in a party primary:

  • You must be a registered member of that party.
  • You cannot change your party registration to vote in a primary during that same year.
  • Party registration changes must be filed 25 days before the previous year’s General Election.

APPLYING FOR AN ABSENTEE BALLOT FOR THE GENERAL ELECTION

You may vote by absentee ballot if you are:

  • absent from New York City (or your county, if you live outside of New York City) on Election Day;
  • ill or disabled, or serve as primary caregiver for an ill or disabled individual;
  • a patient or inmate in a Veterans’ Administration Hospital; OR
  • detained in jail awaiting Grand Jury action or are confined in prison for an offense other than a felony.

Deadlines for absentee ballot applications and submissions are as follows:

  • Mail your Absentee Ballot Application or Letter of Application by Tuesday, October 29th.
  • Apply for an Absentee Ballot in Person at your local county board of elections office by Monday, November 4th.
  • Mail in your Absentee Ballot with a postmark by Monday, November 4th – it also must be received by the local board of elections no later than November 12th.
  • Drop off your Absentee Ballot in person by Tuesday, November 5th, to your local board of elections office – a friend or relative can drop it off.

TO OBTAIN A VOTER REGISTRATION FORM OR ABSENTEE BALLOT:

VOTING ON ELECTION DAY

The General Election will be held on Tuesday, November 5th. Polls will be open from 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. If you have general questions regarding eligibility or the location of your polling place, please call 1-866-VOTE-NYC. You can also locate your polling place online, including handicap entrances, at https://nyc.pollsitelocator.com/

Under federal law, if you are disabled and choose to vote in person rather than by absentee ballot, you are entitled to assistance. You can rely on the election employees for help.

At the polls, if you are not on the voter registration list, it may be because your registration form was not received in time or was filled out incorrectly. If you believe that you are eligible to vote, you can still vote by requesting an affidavit ballot. After the election, the Board of Elections will check its records and your vote will be counted if you are indeed eligible.

EARLY VOTING

All New York State counties are now required to provide each registered voter with nine additional days to cast a ballot in person prior to Election Day.  Voters will have an option to vote from Saturday, October 26th through Sunday, November 3rd, in select polling sites across the five boroughs. Each voter is assigned to a specific Early Voting Poll Site, which might be the same or different than their Election Day Poll Site. To locate your early voting site and its hours of operations, go to https://nyc.pollsitelocator.com/search. For more information on Early Voting, see https://www.voteearlyny.org/

CASTING YOUR BALLOT

Paper ballots will be used for casting votes, which can be marked using either a pen or a ballot marking device (BMD) as described below. Ballots are counted after they are inserted into an electronic scanner. The scanner will then be used to count the votes after the polling place has closed at the end of Election Day. A bin attached to the scanner will capture and keep the paper ballots as a record of all votes. This new process began in 2010 with New York’s adoption of a new voting system to meet federal accessibility requirements.

The process works as follows:

  • Enter the poll site, sign in, and receive your paper ballot from the poll worker.
  • Mark your ballot through one of two means:

◦ Go to a privacy booth and fill out your ballot with a pen by marking the appropriate ovals; or

◦ Use a Ballot Marking Device (BMD), which is available for those who are in need of assistance (see below for more information).

  • Once done, place your ballot in the privacy sleeve, proceed to the scanner area, and insert the marked ballot into the scanner to cast your vote. Your ballot can be inserted in any direction.

If you make a mistake you can request a new ballot. If you mark your ballot incorrectly by marking more choices for one contest than you are supposed to, the scanner will notify you of an “overvote.” To have your vote count, you must obtain a new ballot and mark your choices correctly before submitting your ballot.

BALLOT MARKING DEVICE

Voters will be able to use the Election Systems & Software (ES&S) AutoMARK ballot marking device (BMD), which is mandated to be available at each polling location. Any voter, including voters with disabilities, may use the BMD to view or listen to the ballot in any of the required languages for that poll site (which may include English, Spanish, Chinese – Mandarin, Chinese – Cantonese or Korean). Voters may use the BMD to complete a paper ballot independently and privately on Election Day by using its ATM-style touch screen, Braille-enhanced keypad, sip and puff device or its rocker paddle. More information on the new process is available at the New York City Board of Elections website http://vote.nyc.ny.us/html/newway_en/using_bmd.shtml

 

RESOURCES FOR FURTHER INFORMATION

To Research Campaign Contributions

NYS Board of Elections | (800) 458-3453 | www.elections.ny.gov

To Research Candidates and Issues

Citizens Union | (212) 227-0342 | www.citizensunion.org

Gotham Gazette | (212) 227-0342 | www.gothamgazette.com

NYPIRG | (212) 349-6460 | www.nypirg.org

League of Women Voters of NYS | (518) 465-4162 | www.lwvny.org

Project Vote Smart | (888) VOTE-SMART | www.votesmart.org

 

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

This Voters Directory would not be possible without the hard work of members of the Citizens Union Board, Local Candidates Committee (LCC), staff and interns. We thank them for contributing their time, energy, and expertise this spring to interviewing and evaluating candidates.

We thank you for your support, and hope you enjoy the latest edition of the Voters Directory.

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