City council elections are so white, and so boring


Before I left for The Hague in the Netherlands for graduate school to earn a master’s in international governance and development policy in 2018, I was thoroughly looking forward to taking a little break from discussing both local and national politics.

From an early age, I always was interested in politics. In 2009, I spent my spring high school internship commuting from Riverdale to Kew Gardens to work for Anthony Weiner’s congressional office. Then in 2012, I worked as a very “average” community organizer in the South and East Bronx for Bill Thompson’s mayoral campaign.

While in college at one point, I held the position of class president and student body treasurer. Humbly, I have still lost more elections than I have won.

From afar in the Netherlands, I always kept an eye mostly on New York City and Riverdale. My program was international with more than 160 students in my class, representing more than 50 different countries. The United States had complicated relationships with most of these countries.

Also, I was the only Jewish student, and there were few Americans in the program.

I stopped bothering to follow national news because a lot of my peers would update me and ask questions like, “So who is going to run against Trump?” “Did you hear what Kavanaugh said in his Supreme Court nomination judicial hearings?” Or, most commonly, “Did you see what your president just tweeted?”

Practicing this level of “soft diplomacy,” and being “ambassador” to my country’s controversial history and current view of the world was challenging, to say the least. The Chinese students and I were always both bracing for some quip from other students because as the global hegemon, so go the spoils.

However, still, my best friend and roommate from Somalia dreams of coming and living in the United States, and said, “Don’t worry. Most of them are just jealous.”

Before arriving in Europe, I already did my research, and just in case, looked for my local Democrats Abroad group. The group enabled me to commiserate with other Americans and find a community. Luckily, I did, and volunteered with a few initiatives.

From afar, I always kept an eye on the drama of our local congressional, Assembly, state senate and city council mishegas (Yiddish for “craziness”). However, this upcoming special city council election for Andy Cohen’s seat is far from ideal.

Besides costing the taxpayers possibly $1 million to fund this special election in March, when you look at the names of the candidates running, you think you were voting in Scarsdale or Eastchester, and not “da’ Bronx.” We live in one of the most diverse cities in the world where more and more city residents are speaking Spanish at home (and not English), and these are the only candidates?

While at least we do have at least 50 percent female representation on the ballot, why is our party and community continuing to fail as a whole to cast a wider net and recruit potential candidates with more diverse backgrounds?

It’s bad news about the Benjamin Franklin Reform Democratic Club split losing a lot of young, frustrated professionals. The area and party don’t need such factionalism that is reminiscent of the Republican Tea Party movement of 2011.

Now more energy, resources and money will be split between these dissenting groups and not unified together. But, so is the price, choice and practice of democracy.

Jeffrey Dinowitz and Alessandra Biaggi should strengthen the local Democratic coalition and find reasonable common ground for the sake of their constituents.

But, at the end of the day, Andy has a nice house in Riverdale, probably with a big mortgage. You can’t blame Jeff for wanting his son to have a job that pays $150,000. And let’s have the taxpayer front the special election bill.

It’s too bad that part of that taxpayer money couldn’t go to public schools throughout the borough that encourages the importance of a strong civil society. This money could be budgeted for possible programs that stress the importance of local government, helping empower/train/pay local high school and college students.

Such funding could be directed toward stipends for these students to intern for local candidates and political offices. If we don’t invest now in the next generation of leaders, we most likely will just end up with more of the same.

We have a joke about governance that paraphrases a quote from Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s opinion on the threshold test regarding obscenity in 1964. While it is hard to maintain good governance, you know bad governance because “you know it when you see it.”

I think we all see it, and these examples are surely multiple signs of bad governance.

Oy vey, woe is us, District 11.

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Adam Neufeld,