New York Ballot Propositions
Voters across New York are choosing whether to support five proposals on their ballots. Two are statewide constitutional amendments; the others are new local rules.
Proposal 1 would change a state constitutional rule that says municipalities must be within their debt limit to build sewage treatment plants. A second proposal nixes a state constitutional requirement that voters must have a valid reason to request a ballot by mail.
Proposal 2: Establish a Racial Equity Commission
This proposal would establish a citywide commission on racial equity, require a mayoral office of racial equity and require all city agencies to create a racial equity plan. The commission, which would be appointed by City elected officials, would identify community needs and priorities and provide input into agency budgeting and planning.
Those opposed to the measure say its broad language and lack of specificity could invite unnecessary lawsuits. But supporters say that the city’s current system is inadequate and that the measure will help make sure the voices of Black and brown communities are heard.
The other ballot proposition seeks to change a constitutional rule that voters must register to vote at least 10 days before an election. Advocates say this will allow the state legislature to adopt same-day voter registration, which 20 states have already done. In a separate initiative, voters will decide whether to increase the monetary limit in City civil court from $25,000. This could allow for more class-action lawsuits.
Proposal 3: Create a True Cost of Living Measure
The city should measure the true cost of living for New Yorkers by tracking what it costs to meet their basic needs (including housing, food, childcare, transportation, healthcare, clothing, hygiene and cleaning products and internet service) without public or private assistance. The proposal would require the city government to report this information annually.
This metric would complement existing governmental measurements like the outdated Official Poverty Measure and provide a more complete snapshot of economic insecurity than the current measurement does. It could also help set a better baseline for setting eligibility requirements for the income supports that so many New Yorkers rely on.
The city should establish an office of racial equity to coordinate these efforts and ensure that city agencies are developing racial equity plans. The office should be able to track agency compliance with these plans and receive complaints from the community about city agencies that create disparities.
Proposal 4: Clarify the Right to Clean Air and Water
From the streets of New York City to the hamlets in upstate, it’s important that all communities have clean air and water. This proposal will ensure that when the state acts to protect the environment, it considers a person’s right to clean air and water and a healthy environment.
It will also require that courts treat environmental rights as a property interest, like other fundamental rights such as freedom of speech or religion, and that they can be deprived only with due process and just compensation. This will be a powerful protection against pollution that harms people, families, and future generations.
Some critics say that putting the Right to Clean Air and Water in the constitution will shift policy-making powers from elected officials to judges, and could result in unnecessary lawsuits over energy costs. However, this concern is misplaced. New York is on the leading edge of a national movement to elevate environmental protections to the status of inalienable rights.