You Can’t Fight City Hall. But You Can Pick Who Runs It.

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Gail Collins

Opinion Columnist
Guess I’m going for the vegan.
Next week we’ll be voting in local elections all around the country. In New York the big contest is for mayor, and it pits Democrat Eric Adams against Republican Curtis Sliwa.
Challenged to say something nice about Adams during the final mayoral debate on Tuesday night, Sliwa praised the Democrat’s vegan diet, adopted during a struggle against diabetes. Adams commended Sliwa on his kindness to animals.
Sliwa and his wife are into sheltering abandoned cats, and they currently have 16 in their 320-square-foot studio apartment. I’ve got to admit this is the election factoid that has me most fascinated. The idea of vegan meals being served at Gracie Mansion is sort of interesting — bet we’d get more discussions of the menus than we ever got during Bill de Blasio’s long tenure. But how many cats could you fit in there? Dozens? Hundreds?
OK, people — your turn. If you’ve got a mayoral election coming up in your town, tell me one interesting thing about a major candidate.
Hey, there’s got to be something. If you’re still mulling, maybe you’re failing to focus. Keep thinking. We’ve still got … days.
Do I see a hand over there in Connecticut? Yes, Stamford? You’ve got the former manager of the Mets running? And he called the Democratic candidate “a 35-year-old girl?” Wow, is he promising to make Stamford a municipal version of the Mets?
Like residents of many cities, New Yorkers frequently feel as if their November vote is a tad anticlimactic. The real drama came in the Democratic primary — as the winner, Adams now enjoys a certain advantage that comes with being standard-bearer for a party with 3.7 million voters, compared with the Republicans’ 566,000.
But we political junkies are hanging on until the bitter end. Still lots to gnaw over. Does everybody know that Sliwa’s been married four times and has two children from a long-running entanglement with the Queens district attorney? Meanwhile, where does Adams, a former police officer running on his promise to reform the city’s law enforcement culture, actually live? Brooklyn? New Jersey? His office? If we’re confused, Adams says it may be the fault of his having employed a homeless man to fill out his tax forms.
OK, your turn to complain about your options.
Yes, Minneapolis, I see your hand. You’re right: People who live in cities where the choice is basically between two names on the ballot should not be whining near folks who are going to have to pick from — my gosh, did you say 17?
Indeed. Minneapolis has 17 candidates for mayor. The poor voters are supposed to go through the whole pile and pick a favorite, a runner-up and a third selection. This is called ranked-choice voting and it’s gotten very popular around the country. As the votes are counted, the biggest losers are tossed off and the people who picked them get their next choice put in the mix. The system has many advantages, but it does add one more responsibility to your good-citizen agenda. I remember being stuck at my Manhattan polling place, trying to imagine who my third-favorite candidate for comptroller might be …
The Minneapolis election is theoretically nonpartisan but the candidates are allowed to give themselves a tag. Seven say they’re Democratic Farmer-Labor, which is going to give the voters quite a bit to scramble through, when they aren’t being distracted by the difference between the Independent, Independence Alliance and For the People parties. Or the self-declared nicknames, like Nate “Honey Badger” Atkins and Kevin “No Body” Ward. Another candidate calls himself Bob “Again” Carney Jr. and that’s a great reminder of how many times you’ve gone to vote, looked at the ballot and moaned, “Not again …”
So, bottom line: big election doings coming on Tuesday. For your town, for your city and for all those candidates. Winning a job like mayor is certainly an opportunity to serve the community. And maybe it’s a political steppingstone to — what?
A. Being elected president
B. Being elected mayor again
C. Being indicted
Well, only three American mayors have ever gone on to the White House, and the last of those was Calvin Coolidge. As far as lengthy tenure goes, lots of towns now have term limits, but for those that don’t, the sky’s the limit. (By the way, feel free to congratulate Robert Blais of Lake George, N.Y., on his 50th anniversary as village mayor. Blais, 85, recently told a local paper that he was leaning heavily toward retirement a couple of years down the line.)
On the indictment front, I noticed that a leading candidate for mayor in the upcoming Cincinnati election had his campaign sidetracked when he was charged with accepting bribes last November. Certainly sounds like time for a change, but observers are noting that the Cincinnati electorate seems a little, um, detached. “Does anyone care, including the candidates themselves?” demanded a local columnist.
Well, you can understand why the voters might be a tad depressed, given that a third of the City Council has been arrested on charges like bribery and extortion. But really, citizens, this is exactly the time you have to put on your boots and march over to the polling places, demonstrating that you’re paying attention and want to turn things around.
Really, it’ll perk up your day. Even if it’s raining.
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