AS COVID Regs Calm, Our Engagement In Democracy Must Grow

By Gonzalo Duran, interim District Leader for the 79th Assembly District

The coronavirus pandemic has changed many of the dynamics in our lives. A great deal of us isolated ourselves during the pandemic, this changed how we conduct a good deal of our outside activities. Everything from how we choose our employment, education, community events, and voting has been altered.

The government agencies in charge of New York City’s election process have made numerous amendments to engage the public to run and vote for local offices. Voting is our civic duty and fundamental right. For us to ignore it, we loose out on our communities interest. The process has gone through a tremendous amount of changes these last few years but the numbers in community member’s participation has not.

This year’s election cycle is primarily focused solely on the City Council race. Out of the 51 City Council positions, less than 30 have been challenged and even less will make it to the primary election. The City Council race maybe a high endeavor for the average citizen to jump into, but there are less intense positions to aim for, such as Political Parties District Leaders, County Committees, and State Committees.

For the average New Yorker dealing with work, family, and everyday living are more than enough to handle. To many, adding the stress of running for office is highly unlikely and a burden not worth attempting. Unfortunately, politics affects many platforms is our daily lives. Many of the complaints we have with our housing, resources, public safety, sanitation, and so on are a direct reflection of the law makers we put in power.

At this moment because many of the restrictions of the pandemic have been receding, a lot of the issues that are plaguing us are coming into the public’s view. Organizations, programs, and resources that use to be a staple in our communities are not returning or need to be restarted again and will take much time to fully implement.

Besides the elected city positions, there are also community positions that have been undermanned for years across New York City like the Community Boards which are not elected but appointed positions. There are 59 Community Boards throughout the City, many of them are barley operational and the ones that are, have very little public involvement.

This is important because many Federal, State and City funds are handled at the community level. An example of how municipal funds are dispersed is the participating budgeting program. The program is sponsored by several City Council Districts. Those City Council representatives rely on members of the community and Community Boards to help voice their opinions and spread the word.

Other examples of a Community Boards oversight through committees and community participation are parking spots allocation for a new city wide car sharing service, the discussion on a location for where a shelter should be placed, reporting community violations to concentrate police presence, partnering with local organization for events and so forth.

What does this mean for Bronx residents? Both the lower level political positions and community boards play pivotal roles in how local laws are navigated and how funds are spread to the general population. Each can be used to open doors for growth within the community and a stepping stone towards a political career. With many of these political positions vacant, you have the ability to help change the course of our democracy more than you think.

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