Citizens Union today announced its endorsements for citywide and City Council contests for the 2017 New York City general election. The full directory is available now by downloadable PDF, with an interactive version to follow shortly.
For the first time in more than 50 years, Citizens Union, by a unanimous vote of its governing board, declined to support any of the candidates running for Mayor. Citizens Union noted a number of Mayor Bill de Blasio’saccomplishments during his term but expressed a particular concern that the Mayor’s conduct has raised many troubling ethical issues. Citizens Union expressed the hope that in the future whoever is elected mayor will address the perception of a “pay-to-play” culture at City Hall and support ethics reform legislation for the benefit of all New Yorkers.
Besides the incumbent, the only other major party candidate, Nicole Malliotakis, is earnest, has a promising future, but would benefit from more experience in order to run a government of the size and complexity of New York City. The other candidates evaluated, Sal Albanese and Michael Tolkin, did not demonstrate the range of leadership skills or public support to receive endorsement consideration.
Citizens Union Chair Randy Mastro said: “This is a sad day for Citizens Union that it cannot, in good conscience, support any of the candidates for Mayor, including the incumbent, who has spent most of his tenure engulfed in troubling ethical issues that continue to swirl around him. New Yorkers deserve better than this. And we call upon whoever is elected to commit themselves to ethics reforms that clean up City Hall.”
In the Public Advocate and Comptroller’s races, Citizens Union endorsed the incumbents Letitia James and Scott Stringer. Citizens Union found that James has an excellent command of the issues facing the City and has used the office of Public Advocate effectively to advocate for change. Citizens Union found that Stringer has been an effective Comptroller, providing sound stewardship of the city’s finances and, notably, the City’s pension funds.
In City Council races, Citizens Union endorsed Rebecca Harary for the open seat in Council District 4, believing she would be an energetic, committed representative who would add a fresh perspective to the Council. In District 15, Citizens Union endorsed Ritchie Torres for reelection, because of his legislative aptitude, especially on matters relating to housing and police accountability, and his sensitivity to the issues facing his constituents.
Citizens Union also endorsed Justin Brannan for the open seat in District 43, believing in this race that he is “the candidate with the greatest ability to successfully negotiate the dynamics of the Council.”
Finally, Citizens Union made no endorsement for the open seat in District 44. In its Directory, Citizens Union noted that the Democratic candidate, Kalman Yeger, was running for City Council in District 48 until Council Member Greenfield announced that he would no longer seek re-election—after the petition filing deadline for candidates had passed—and selected Yeger as his successor as the Democratic candidate for District 44 — a move that Citizens Union has criticized as disenfranchising constituents and fueling the cynicism of New York voters.
Citizens Union urges a YES vote on Proposal 1, which calls for a constitutional convention to be convened. This question appears on the ballot once every 20 years. Citizens Union has been working hard to educate the electorate about the importance of voting YES, “as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make fundamental reforms to the structure of our state’s democracy which are either barred by the current constitution or blocked by the intransigence of the currently established political powers. Potential reforms supported by the Citizens Union include the adoption of reasonable term limits for all elected officials, providing for early voting and more accessible registration, reducing the influence of money in elections, strengthening local government, reorganizing our byzantine court system, and the establishment of stronger ethics standards and enforcement to reduce corruption. Many other positive reforms could be adapted to open the political process in the dramatic fashion to meet the needs of future generations.”
Citizens Union also recommends a YES vote for Proposal 2, which would allow a court to reduce or revoke the pension of a public official convicted of corruption in public office. Under this provision, in making its decision, the court must take certain factors into account, including the severity of the crime, the proportionality of the pension forfeiture to the crime, and the potential hardship to the official’s family. Citizens Union believes this proposed amendment “creates a fair procedure for a court to follow in determining whether and to what extent the pension should be forfeited, sending a strong message to public officials that their service is to the people, not themselves, and that any knowing corruption will simply not be tolerated.”
Citizens Union did not evaluate Proposal 3, which would authorize the use of no more than 250 acres of the State’s forest preserve for specified purposes.