Many residents of Yonkers have come to accept the statement, “The city of hills, where nothing is on the level” to be a truth about Yonkers, and more specifically – Yonkers Politics. This statement keeps us buried in a learned helplessness. However we, as an electorate, can get past this on multiple levels of government. Let me show you how!
All too often, we hear the national two party political system is full of corruption, exclusion and systemic barriers that leave out the very people it is meant to help. Red or blue, left or right, D or R, “they are all the same” echoes through the conversations of the everyday citizen. “They don’t think about us and how their policies affect us,” has been uttered by many friends as we agree and disagree about various points of party politics, on every level of government. What about on the local level, right here at home in Yonkers?
I just live here.
While residents are busy rushing off to work, taking their kids to school or picking them up from after care, there are firefighters and police officers responding to countless emergencies, and other municipal workers doing their jobs so we can drive home to a healthy, safe city and worry about our own personal errands. Who even thinks about the delicate balance between politics and government and how the two affect us everyday, even when we are not consciously aware or thinking about it? While we pull over to the right of the road as we see the Empress ambulance lights shining in our rear view mirror. We do not even think about how Empress Ambulance got the contract to service Yonkers? Instead, and if you are anything like me, you say a silent prayer in your head, from your heart for whomever needs that ambulance right now. You are simultaneously grateful that you and your loved ones are healthy and safe and sit in gratitude while the ambulance passes by your stopped vehicle.
Those questions that we do not think to ask have just created a monopoly in Yonkers that our elected officials choose for us, while simultaneously taking away the possibility of other service options. Tax payers simultaneously pay for the fire department to be trained as EMS personnel in order to respond to emergencies. This duplication of services cost the taxpayers money without question because most of us are trying to get through our days without issue.
Politics and Government…and me?
There is a clear idea of political insiders and outsiders. And then there are those who are assumed to have a sense of disconnect. The disconnected are the vast majority of voters who are offered local politicians endorsed by a party that do not seem to know us and make decisions for us everyday. In the last Presidential election, about 71% of registered voters went to the polls and exercised the right to vote for those candidates that represent our wants and needs. Just one year later, less than 18% of registered voters voted for the local governmental positions who affect our daily lives. So, only about 20,000 voters picked out who would represent the over 210,000 of us in the City of Yonkers. More importantly, only about one half of our city is even registered to vote.
Who offers us these local politicians?
The local party chapters – the Yonkers Democratic City Committee and the Yonkers Republican City Committee. Yonkers has far more registered Democrats than Republicans so there is more power and leverage for politicians to be registered Democrats, as well as the political party members of the Democratic Party.
The political system exists to get people elected to public office, which is the government part. However, there is a party elected position called a District Leader (officially called a County Committee person) who picks and endorses candidates on your behalf. This is a hyperlocal elected position. But most times people do not vote on this position because there are not enough people who are aware of it, not enough people who want to run for it, or people who do not understand the process.
Most times these party members come together because they are supposed to have a similar ideology and pathway to solving the bigger problems in society. However in Yonkers, political operatives look at numbers, pick the party with the most registered voters and run for the hyperlocal position in order to give you locally endorsed candidates that may not share your ideology simply because they want their candidates to have that office. Since that position is not challenged and most people do not know they exist there are no questions about the endorsed candidates. What is more important is that the percentage of people voting to endorse candidates is even lower than 18%. There are approximately 486 democratic district leaders (out of over 60k registered democrats) who endorse the city wide races such as Mayor or City Council President and 486 Republican district leaders that pick their endorsed candidates (out of almost 20k registered republicans). If you can hack this party politics system you now have control over a political mechanism that affects everyday people’s lives in immeasurable ways.
How do I have better local candidates?
- If you are not already registered to vote, pick a party that fits your political beliefs and needs.
- Call your local party leadership. If they respond, ask them who your current district leader is representing you in local political meetings and their contact info. Sometimes people do not give out emails or cell phone numbers, but will give you their address because they have to legally disclose that information. Write them a postal mail letter, call them or email them if the party gives you their contact information about where they stand on issues. TELL THEM WHERE YOU STAND ON ISSUES! If no one responds, you can go to the Westchester political party website and get the information you seek.
- If you are dissatisfied with your district leader…Run for District leader yourself by watching the video below and pick the candidates yourself.
We can no longer afford to be a city who believes that we are helpless. If our city is not “on the level” it is our responsibility to actively participate in getting it to be a city accountable to its citizens. There are community partners who are willing to help and there are stakeholders who see the future like you.