Get rid of runoffs
Two qualified candidates for public advocate faced off in a runoff Tuesday, with Councilmember Letitia James defeating state Senator Daniel Squadron.
The turnout was extremely low — only 187,000 of the party’s 3 million registered Democrats went to the polls.
Meanwhile, the cost of the city’s running the runoff, $13 million, far exceeds the small budget of the Public Advocate’s Office, $2.3 million.
All of which raises the question whether runoffs for citywide offices — except for mayor — should be abolished in favor of so-called “instant runoffs.”
Currently, if no citywide candidate garners 40 percent of the vote in a primary, there is a runoff between the top two finishers.
Basically, the instant runoff is the better option, since it would save the city from having to hold these extremely low-turnout contests, while — importantly — saving millions of dollars.
Under this alternative, voters would rank their top choices, in descending order. If no candidate secured 40 percent, the bottom candidates would be knocked out and their votes allotted to the other candidates proportionally.
As for mayor, the runoff should remain. The period between primary and runoff gives voters (and the media) a closer look at the remaining candidates. That sort of extra vetting is needed for anyone who would be mayor.
Last week, David McWater resigned from Community Board 3. The Villager first reported early on Tues., Sept. 24, that the influential former C.B. 3 chairperson would announce he was stepping down from the East Village / Lower East Side board that night at the full-board meeting.
The week before, McWater had been caught on video losing his temper with a much smaller woman, a member of the LES Dwellers anti-bar group, at a C.B. 3 State Liquor Authority Committee meeting. The videos went viral.
Yes, McWater lost his cool. And, his critics charge, he could be an intimidating force on the S.L.A. Committee, pushing for applications he supported. That he is a bar owner always rankled quality-of-life activists.
Yet, we hear what may have been the final straw, pushing McWater to resign, was our article, first published in last week’s issue of The Villager, which raised questions about whether McWater lives in New Jersey. If he does, then he shouldn’t have been on C.B. 3.
And yet, there’s no question he did a great deal of good, most notably, getting the East Village / Lower East Side rezoning passed, and leading a deeply divided community to consensus on redevelopment guidelines for the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area.
Yes, he’s tough, and yes, he has, shall we say, a bit of an ego. But perhaps that’s what it took to get these very large, contentious plans passed.
McWater got his start on the Lower East Side when it was a much tougher neighborhood than it is today. He forged friendships with former Councilmember Margarita Lopez and her successor, Rosie Mendez. Though not a politician, he’s a political animal, and those qualities helped him get the rezoning and SPURA passed.
No, he’s not perfect. He’s not the only board member we know who can get a bit too forceful or passionate. His presence on the S.L.A. Committee, in retrospect, was probably always problematic. Again, he’s not the only board member with an agenda or bias.
As for whether McWater was truly the “greatest ever,” time will tell. But he’s right to say the community does owe him for his work, especially on the rezoning and SPURA, on both of which he did an amazing job.