The City Charter Revision Commission is considering whether to change our way of electing city officials to a non-partisan approach. This is an excellent idea and will give more people an opportunity to run for public office without having to be beholden to either major political party.
What I have noticed over the years is that the same group of people control the same city elected offices — in large part due to political party power. Often we see staff members or family members of elected officials running for office. Most of these people are not bad and they try to do the right thing, but if you are not part of the in-group, your chances of being nominated and therefore elected are low.
Sometimes the present system works well for us when we elect people of the caliber of a Frank Padavan or a Tony Avella, who not only are dedicated but exhibit an independent streak, taking stands on issues that do not always go along with the powers that be.
But under a non-partisan approach, electing more outstanding people would be possible because people running would be more free to say what they really believe without fear of offending the party leadership or special interests.
Of course, many of those in power oppose non-partisan elections. They want to maintain the status quo. They claim there will be those who are wealthy who will try to buy themselves into an elected office. That may be true, but doesn’t that already exist in our present system? Mayor Michael Bloomberg spent approximately $100 million of his own money to win last year’s election. To control this problem, the Charter should be revised to limit the amount a candidate or his or her family can spend on an election.
The voters of our city are savvy. They will carefully evaluate those running for office under a non-partisan system of election. They do not need to have the crutch of a party label to choose their representatives.
With a non-partisan approach, sensible run-off election procedures and controls on campaign spending, even the least wealthy of candidates could run for office. And isn’t that what democracy is all about?