Council votes to require public education ahead of ranked choice elections

Council votes to require public education ahead of ranked choice elections

Moses Kuwema

 

The New York City Council voted on a number of legislation among them, one aimed at mandating specific steps for the city's voter education campaign regarding ranked choice voting.

Introduction No. 1994-A, proposed by 41st District Council Member Alicka Ampry-Samuel, would require the New York City Campaign Finance Board (CFB) to take a number of concrete steps to familiarize voters with Ranked Choice Voting (RCV). 

The specific steps the bill would require the CFB to take are: conduct a citywide media campaign, distribute a postcard explaining ranked choice voting to each household in the City with at least one registered voter, create and maintain information on its website regarding RCV.

Other steps include, collaborate with community-based organizations in all five boroughs on RCV education, produce educational materials regarding RCV and distribute such materials to the 26 city agencies designated as “participating voter registration agencies” under the Charter-train the employees of such agencies on how to incorporate RCV into their interactions with the public.

The CFB will also be required to conduct targeted outreach to voters in council districts where special elections have been scheduled to take place prior to the citywide primary on June 22, 2021.

The bill also would require the 26 participating voter registration agencies to post and distribute the educational materials provided by CFB. In addition, the bill would mandate that the Civic Engagement Commission include RCV education as part of its poll site language interpreter training.

The bill is expected to take effect immediately and be deemed repealed on December 31, 2025.

“Ranked Choice Voting passed in November 2019,” said Council Member Ampry-Samuel. “In a year and two months, extremely minimal effort has been given to public engagement. Left to their own devices, Campaign Finance Board and Board of Elections would only satisfy the bare minimum of our city’s charter requirements of public education. That would be a waste of time and resources so I’m creating a space for us to ensure removal of barriers that keep people from voting and the opportunity to hold CFB accountable if they don’t.”

The Council Members also voted on legislation that mandates significant reforms to the city’s street vendor permit system.

Introduction No. 1116-B, sponsored by Council Member Margaret Chin, would mandate significant reforms related to street vendor permitting throughout New York City, aiming to address problems with the current system through three key changes.

First, the legislation would expand the availability of food vendor permits by gradually releasing 4,000 new permits over the course of ten years. For these new permits, the permittee would be required to be present and working at their cart. 

Ultimately, all permits would convert to this system, putting a stop to the illegal market for vending permits. Second, this legislation would create a dedicated unit to enforce street vending laws, with an increased focus on locations where street vending is plentiful and congestion issues persist. 

Thirdly, a street vendor advisory board including relevant city agencies, and representatives of the business and real estate community, as well as street vendors, will be established to monitor the work of the enforcement unit and the roll out of new permits, as well as make recommendations to both the Council and the Mayor on issues related to vending.

This legislation would also address the congestion that often exists near grocery stores and restaurants with sidewalk cafes, by requiring both food and general merchandise vendors to maintain 20 feet from stoop line stands and sidewalk cafes. Finally, through this legislation the city’s Green Carts program would be expanded to increase options for selling healthy food throughout the city.

“Introduction 1116 finally puts an end to the underground market that currently preys on hardworking food vendors, the majority of whom are immigrant entrepreneurs. The gradual release of new permits in tandem with the creation of a dedicated enforcement unit protects those who are already vending and creates a streamlined and transparent system for vendors, businesses, and the public,” said Council Member Margaret Chin.

“Food vendors have always been part of New York City’s small business community; in fact, many successful restaurants started their business from a food cart. Vendors contribute to the vibrancy and diversity of our city and they deserve to make a living in a legal, dignified way.”

Council Members further voted to reform the city’s tax lien sale system by increasing the delinquency thresholds for certain residential properties to be eligible for the tax lien sale in the first place, creating an exemption for eligible property owners who are facing a COVID-19 related financial hardship, and mandating a more robust outreach program.

The legislation would extend the city’s authority to sell tax liens for just one year.

During that year the Council, the Administration, and advocates will form a task force to examine ways that the city’s collection of municipal debt can be made more fair, effective and efficient. In addition, the task force will consider alternatives to the tax lien sale that would include transferring tax delinquent properties or liens to mission-drive not-for-profit organizations such as community land trusts. As part of the agreement between the Council and the Administration, the city will provide $1 million in discretionary funding (spread across FY21 and FY22) for community-based organizations to conduct lien sale outreach.

The Council also voted on two bills related to the city’s 311 hotline. The first bill would require the City to conduct a study and submit a report on anonymous 311 complaints. 

Although 311 is designed to be a way for New Yorkers to report legitimate problems, there is concern that it occasionally has been used as a tool for harassment, whereby a caller makes repeated, anonymous, unsubstantiated complaints against a private property. 

This bill would help the City understand the extent of 311 harassment and generate ideas for addressing the problem. The second bill would require 311 to notify city agencies when a service request has not been closed within a designated time frame and is designed to promote the timely resolution of complaints made to 311.

Members also voted on two pieces of legislation regarding workplace safety. The first bill would create a nine-member board which will hold two public hearings on workplace safety protocol, after which it will review and issue recommendations on workplace health and safety guidance issued during public health emergencies and, specifically, the current COVID-19 pandemic. 

The second bill would require the Citywide Office of Occupational Safety and Health (COSH) to proactively monitor federal, state, and local occupational safety and health agencies for any guidance they might issue on matters related to workplace safety and public health and deliver the guidance electronically to each agency safety and health coordinator (ASHC) within 24 hours of it being issued. The ASHC will then be required to email the health and safety guidance to city employees and provide any necessary education or training to help compliance.

Additionally, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, members voted on legislation to extend deadlines for applicants to the basement legalization pilot program (established by Local Law number 49 for the year 2019) to allow applicants additional time to submit required construction documents to the New York City Department of Buildings (DOB).