It has been six months since a progressive government took office in New York City and we can be sure that a number of press articles will be evaluating the work of the new administration. Covered, no doubt, will be the housing strategy, Pre-K access reform, the unchanged institution that is the NYPD, and the “Vision Zero” plan to reduce traffic fatalities, with a little mention, perhaps, of the City ID legislation quietly passed in June.
If this new government is serious about its progressive agenda, the next six months will be prioritized around municipal voting rights for noncitizens. How can we get anything really going in a different direction without empowering over a million New Yorkers who are today without any representation? It is the ultimate allegory of the “tale of the 2 cities”, De Blasio’s slogan during the mayoral campaign. You have a city where people can vote and a city where people can’t. No wonder the disparity in the city between the rich and the poor is at its ultimate high.
The future of our city will be guarantied mainly through developing Its democratic processes and engaging its citizens. Today, conditions exist to get it done. We can give the right to vote in the municipal elections to a million legal noncitizen residents (green card holders, H1 and HB visa holders, etc.), people who help make the city creative, dynamic, developed, and healthy everyday. Who are these people? They are your family, your neighbors, your co-workers, your fellow college students. We have already seen in few years the growing number engaged in the participatory budgeting process, which now reaches 22 council districts and designates over $25 million a year, a nearly 80% increase in funding allocated for participatory budgeting from the previous fiscal year.
We have to make sure that the political will is there; we are very close to having the support of a majority of council members. The time is now for people that are active on progressive issues — minimum wage, sick days, access to housing, immigrant rights, public education, free and fair elections, worker rights, civic data, public spaces, biking — to get this done. Please don’t let this opportunity pass and be wasted.
It would be a win/win for everyone: it reinforces local power (which is loosing momentum), combats low voter turnout, and could enfranchise an additional one million New Yorkers. Your personal well-being depend for a large part on the well being of the city.
New York City’s political landscape is ready: this is an opportune time for this type of large scale municipal legislation which will change New York’s political life for ever. Imagine one million more people with the capacity to have their voices heard and become part of mainstream discussion around our city’s future.