New York City has an election coming up a week from today. (Well, it's actually happening already if you count early voting).
The problem is, in a city of 8.5 million people, practically nobody cares about it. We'll be lucky if we hit 25% turnout.
Low-turnout elections cause a bunch of weird and undesirable side-effects. In our case, it means that candidates spend their time playing small ball, dancing around the big issues in favor of the ones that animate small, active interest groups.
But when it all comes down to it, there are really only two issues that matter to everybody in this city: housing and transportation. I recently wrote about this for Gotham Gazette, an influential politics and policy publication here in the city:
If we get them right, everything else gets easier. If we ignore them, we are left struggling, trying to put band-aids on our problems. This is the simple recipe: First, more people should be able to live where they want to live. Second, more people should be able to get around without a private car.
About housing, I wrote:
We should be building housing like the life of our city depends on it, because it does. People want to live here, and we should be a city that wants them too. We are all better off when we welcome new neighbors with open arms instead of a cold shoulder – whether they are recent college graduates, retirees, immigrants, or anybody else that wants to be part of the New York story. Despite their outsized voices, this has never been a town of NIMBYs, our brand is acceptance and tolerance and opportunity. And the only way to keep this promise of our city alive for this generation and future ones is to build homes for more New Yorkers.
And on transportation:
This manifests in what are called “complete” streets, which are reimagined with pocket parks, bike lanes, pedestrian safety improvements, accessible loading zones, and perhaps most viscerally impactful of all, containerized waste collection. The rats will hate this. The driver of a jacked-up pickup truck doing 50 in a school zone will hate this. But every time we try this, we see that New Yorkers love it.
It was encouraging to see this message resonate with so many people over the past week. Here are a couple of my favorite reactions: