This Op-Ed by Nicole Malliotakis originally appeared in the New York Post
April Fool’s Day is usually the first day of April, but it came again this year when Mayor Bill de Blasio welcomed the month of October by creating a new position he grandly calls “chief democracy officer,” adding to New York City’s already bloated ranks of municipal employees.
Only in de Blasio’s New York would a mayor create a new position — one with a huge salary, no less — that only serves to confuse voters.
The new job’s title may be laughable, but the lofty annual pay, $165,000, makes this patronage job just another bad joke on city taxpayers. Adding insult to injury, it turned out that the woman chosen for the post and asked to boost voter participation had, herself, failed to vote in numerous elections — including last year’s Democratic primary between de Blasio and Sal Albanese.
That’s a pretty impressive accomplishment, considering her polling place sits barely a block away from her Upper West Side residence.
Perhaps the biggest joke, though, was when 400,000 New Yorkers got an alarming letter from the city’s new DemocracyNYC program this week. The note informed them that they had been removed from the voter-registration rolls for being inactive.
“You were marked as an inactive voter by the New York City Board of Elections,” the letter said, “but you may still be eligible to vote in the upcoming election.”
Alas, in many cases, the information was simply wrong; those who got the letters were, indeed, registered and able to vote. Yet the letter sparked 1,600 frantic phone calls to the BOE. Active voters were concerned it was a scam or even an attempt to suppress voter turnout.
The needless chaos unleashed by the new “chief confusion officer” in her first week is just one reason de Blasio should do away with the position. Here’s another: New York City’s Board of Elections already has 10 commissioners and well over 1,000 full-time employees — who, according to the BOE website, are required by state law “to enfranchise all eligible New Yorkers to register to vote and to practice those rights” and to oversee “voter outreach and education.”
That the new “democracy” chief’s job is already being done by another agency has left many New Yorkers scratching their heads and rightfully asking why the duplicative initiative is needed.
And it’s par for the course for a municipal hiring spree under de Blasio that has included a $130,000-a-year director of nightlife and that has brought the number of special assistants at City Hall to roughly 300, with some earning more than $200,000 annually. (Great work if you are politically connected enough to get it.)
According to projections in a report by the Citizens Budget Commission, of the 34,171 new de Blasio positions created between the end of Fiscal Year 2014 and the end of Fiscal Year 2019, only 4,069 (or 12 percent) are accounted for by uniformed police, fire, sanitation or corrections personnel.
Let me put that in perspective: The city’s 331,520 municipal workers make up a larger workforce than those in the governments of any of 46 states. Only California, Texas, Florida and New York state have more state employees than the city.
And the cost is steep: The CBC estimates that full-time positions added as of July 2018 account for a whopping $2.5 billion in personnel expenses in the current fiscal year. They also raise long-term liabilities by another $521 million.
In an economic downturn — and even de Blasio himself admits one is inevitable, sooner or later — that will leave the city hard pressed to make its annual payroll, or pay other bills. Meanwhile, the city budget itself has ballooned by more than 25 percent, from $70 billion to $89 billion, since de Blasio took office. Again, that doesn’t portend well for the day when revenues begin to dry up.
Meanwhile, what are New Yorkers getting for all that money and bureaucracy? Property tax bills that have soared 44 percent, streets still riddled with potholes and litter, classrooms that are overcrowded, public housing that’s deplorable and a growing population of homeless and mentally ill left to fend for themselves.
Maybe all that gross mismanagement of taxpayer money and poor stewardship of the city has New Yorkers fed up and apathetic. And maybe that’s why so few of them come out to vote.
In any event, this is surely not a problem another de Blasio bureaucrat with a fancy title and fat pay is likely to solve.