Off-year elections demand attention
On Nov. 7, the general election will take place. This provides the opportunity to re-elect incumbents or to elect completely new voices into influential positions. It is important for students, who would not typically vote in a non-presidential election, to go out and vote in local elections, because it is the local officials who will be advocating for their constituents on a higher level. It is also important to note that officials elected on a local platform typically move up the hierarchy, eventually ending up as state or congressional representatives. Millennials have a different perspective than the generations that were living in a different political climate. For example, the baby boomer generation was very money-driven, just coming out of World War II, which influenced how the constituents voted, and how politicians formed their political platform. On the contrary, millennials are very conscientious about climate change and sustainability. However, if college students and other millennials do not vote, their concerns will not be addressed by active politicians.
Local official’s jobs also include preparing for natural disasters and man-made incidents such as shootings or terrorist attacks. Typically, relief efforts are initiated after the event has happened; state representatives evaluate the damage and propose their own solution. However, if local officials utilize their power efficiently, they can create a model and a sense of preparedness before a tragedy happens. Currently, 48 out of the 51 positions in the New York City Council are held by Democrats and the other three positions are held by Republicans. New York uses a strong mayor-city council relationship which is why there is a lot of pressure riding on the 2017 general elections. This year, there are many incumbents who are at their term limit, thus creating an influx of available positions for new faces.
According to the Encyclopedia of American Politics, 12 Democratic members of the city council formed the Progressive Caucus in 2010 to aid in environmentalism, safe and affordable housing and prevention-focused criminal justice. The mayor at the time, Michael Bloomberg, was semi-proactive about environmental concerns and gun control, but he neglected the poor, working and middle class.
The Alliance had endorsed four more candidates for City Council, and three out of the four won the Democratic Primary Election in September, including two women candidates. The female population makes up 52 percent of New York City, but only 25 percent of seats in the City Council are held by women. The number of women in the City Council declined from 18 in 2009 to 13 in 2017. This number is susceptible to decrease even further since four female incumbents have reached their maximum term limit and a fifth member is opting not to run.
The gender gap in the City Council has become a concern, especially in a major city such as New York, and has sparked progressive initiatives to stunt the gap from growing even bigger. Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito has initiated a campaign called “21 in ’21,” which aims to increase the number of councilwomen to 21 by the year 2021. The Progressive Caucus Alliance is also committed to increasing the number of women in city council by endorsing Carlina Rivera and Diana Ayala.
Every state and every region has its own way of incorporating local politics into its daily life. For example, in more rural or suburban regions, local politics is more critical of issues involving school boards or gerrymandering because that may be a more prominent issue in their district, whereas in New York, politician’s focus on decongesting transportation and environmental cleanup will have a more significant impact. College students and millennials should take advantage of voting in general elections because it is their chance to express their concerns involving the area that they live in. The higher up in the political hierarchy officials climb, where state and congressional representatives reside, the less likely the representatives are to hear individuals’ personal concerns. Local representatives are always more willing to listen.