By Marie Ternes
Suffering a spat of election fatigue? The signs. The phone calls. The mailers. Oh, those mailers. Or maybe you are still in a state of post-Trump election agitation and are extra energized to do everything you can to protect New York? Regardless of your passion or disinterest in local politics, I have news for you: there is another election headed our way and I hope you will embrace it, engage in it and ultimately vote in it.
This past November 7, our Assembly Member, Brian Kavanagh was elected to the State Senate to fill a vacancy created by former Senator Daniel Squadron, leaving our neighborhood without an Assembly Member to represent us in Albany.
While we are fortunate to have great State Senate representatives in Senators Brad Hoylman representing PCVST, and Senators Liz Krueger and Brian Kavanagh nearby, we must take filling the post of Assembly Member for the 74th Assembly District with renewed interest.
Vacancies are a little complicated. Because it’s occurring mid-term, it is up to Governor Cuomo to call a special election. He gets to choose the time – it could be as early as a Tuesday in March, 2018, or he could wait until the Congressional Primary in June, or he could just wait until the normal primary in September and general election in November, which is probably the least likely. In a special election, Democratic, Republican, and Working Families Party nominees are determined in a weighted vote by the respective party leaders. In our district, which leans heavily Democratic, the Democratic Party County Committee Members in the 74th District will all but guarantee the outcome of the Assembly race.
I explain this, not to stoke any cynicism, but to encourage you to get engaged. There are four Democratic clubs in our Assembly District and you can find them online and on Facebook: Samuel J. Tilden Democratic Club, Eleanor Roosevelt Democratic Club, Gramercy Stuyvesant Independent Democrats and the Coalition for a District Alternative (CODA). Each club has a male and female district leader, who serve in unpaid elected positions and play an important role in convening the County Committee members and votes. Many of the district Leaders I know are committed public servants, who care about selecting good candidates and are passionate about helping the neighborhood.
As a resident of Stuyvesant Town and a veteran of politics at the local and national level, I think there are important issues that the future Assembly member for PCVST should work on. Here are a few:
Preserve and support middle and low-income housing. Albany plays an important role in setting affordable housing requirements for new developments, and also in preserving and supporting the affordable housing already in the district.
Enhance our transportation network. When the L train shuts down for repairs, we can’t afford to be in a mass transit desert. Our buses provide an important service, but we need to be able to cross-town faster than their current speed. At a minimum, during peak travel, major arteries such as 14th Street should be restricted to buses and ride-sharing services such as VIA. And we need a lot more Citi Bike stations.
Upgrade a woman’s right to choose. New York State still has antiquated abortion notification and access laws and we must support the Women’s Health Act spearheaded by Senator Krueger and Assembly Member Glick.
Constituent services for the 21st Century. One of the most important roles of an elected official is to advocate and solve problems for constituents. This work could use a digital refresh to make it easier for constituents to contact the office and provide services.
Portable benefits for small businesses and sole proprietors. It is expected that by 2027, a majority of our workforce will be freelancers. Not having a traditional employer means it’s more complicated to save for retirement and purchase insurance. NY State needs to facilitate these important tools that help provide basic financial security.
I hope you will think about the ideas and issues we need in Albany and share them with our local political clubs and the candidates who emerge. Only as active participants in our democracy can we hope to see benefits for our community and city.
Marie Ternes is a communications consultant living in Stuyvesant Town. She has worked as a policy analyst for the City Council and as chief of staff to former Congressman Anthony Weiner. She is considering running for Kavanagh’s Assembly seat.