Outer boroughs lack proper attention in citywide elections, report shows
NEW YORK, NY, August 8, 2018 – Manhattan Council Member Keith Powers today introduced legislation to require candidates running for citywide office to obtain at least 50 contributions from residents in each borough, in order to qualify for public funding for their campaign. Council Members Joe Borelli and Fernando Cabrera are sponsors of the legislation, and represent Staten Island and the Bronx, respectively, boroughs that have historically experienced an imbalance in contributions received.
In addition to previously set matchable contribution thresholds, the legislation would require candidates in mayoral, public advocate, and comptroller races to raise $10 or more from at least 50 residents in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Staten Island, and Queens. The Campaign Finance Board also recommended the measure in a June 2018 testimony at the Mayoral Charter Revision Commission.
“I am a lifelong Manhattanite, but I know the importance of talking to voters in every community and every borough. Today’s legislation offers a simple solution to a disparity in contributions by requiring 50 contributions from every borough for those seeking to be the next Mayor, Public Advocate, or Comptroller,” said Council Member Keith Powers. “This would ensure that all of our citywide candidates spend more time in all five boroughs.”
Council Member Powers’ newly released report, “50 Ways to Leave Your Borough: A Campaign Finance Reform Proposal,” compiled from publicly available Campaign Finance Board data from the 2005, 2009, 2013, and 2017 New York City Elections, showed a disparity across the boroughs in campaign contributions to citywide candidates. In the 2013 race for Public Advocate, for example, one candidate received 2,590 contributions from Manhattan, but only 11 from Staten Island. And in the 2005 Public Advocate election, one candidate received 1,303 contributions from Manhattan, but only 22 from Staten Island, and 34 from the Bronx.
“Staten Island is nicknamed the ‘Forgotten Borough’ for a reason. For too long, candidates seeking city-wide positions have evaded listening to the plights of Staten Islanders, because quite frankly, the political process allowed it,” said Council Member Joe Borelli. “This bill will correct that by necessitating that a minimum of fifty, ten-dollar donations come from each borough. Those representing an entire city should at the very least lend an ear to voices all across the City, not just those with deep pockets and special interests.”
“As chair of the Governmental Operations Committee, I’m proud to support this legislation. This bill resolves a longstanding problem in New York City – disparity among campaign contributions to city-wide candidates,” said Council Member Fernando Cabrera. “By requiring at least 50 contributions from each borough, we are taking a big step toward fairness – to make sure that mayoral, public advocate and comptroller candidates represent all voters throughout the five boroughs. This is leveling the playing field and extending civic participation in our elections process.” Cabrera is the Chair of the Committee on Governmental Operations, which is the committee that oversees campaign finance.
In line with Council Member Powers’ dedication to good government, the legislation pushes for inclusion in campaigns. By requiring candidates to increase their contribution numbers from outer boroughs, they will spend more time listening to more voices throughout the city.
Earlier this year, Council Member Powers introduced legislation to allow candidates to use campaign funds for childcare expenses. He also has a package of legislation to help first-time, smaller candidates run for office. The package of bills would lower qualifying thresholds for public matching funds, increase matchable contributions, create a pilot for special elections, empower small campaigns, and close a doing business loophole.
About Council Member Keith Powers
Keith Powers is Council Member for the East Side of Manhattan, covering Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village, Waterside Plaza, Tudor City, East Midtown, Midtown West, and part of the Upper East Side. Council Member Powers serves as Chair of the Criminal Justice Committee, and is vice co-chair of budget of the Progressive Caucus.